Excess UK deaths in Covid-19 outbreak approach 60,000

The number of excess deaths registered in the UK during the Covid-19 outbreak has almost reached 60,000, as an international comparison showed the country has one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus deaths per capita.

Figures released on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed cases have been falling, but they came as University of Oxford researchers reported that the UK had the third-highest daily death rate internationally – 4.49 deaths per million people per day.

Only Sweden, with a rate of 4.68, and Brazil at 4.49, came out worse. The figures compiled for the site Our World in Data are based on a rolling seven-day average and are updated daily. On Monday the British rate was the worst in the world at 4.54 deaths per million per day.

The research draws on data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and comes with the caveat that factors around population size, testing and the way in which different states recorded fatalities mean the number of confirmed deaths may not be an accurate count of the true number.

Nevertheless, Britain’s status as one of the worst-hit countries in Europe continued to be underlined from ONS data released on Tuesday, which showed there had been 53,960 excess deaths in England and Wales from the start of the outbreak to 15 May.

In the two weeks to 15 May there were 27,230 deaths from all causes in England and Wales, 38% above the five-year average for the period. This was down from 80.6% in the preceding week, showing a falling rate of excess deaths.

There were 4,210 deaths involving Covid-19 registered in England and Wales in the week ending 15 May, the fewest since the week ending 3 April.

Scotland recorded 4,434 excess deaths in Scotland between 23 March and 17 May, and Northern Ireland recorded 834 excess deaths between 21 March and 15 May, giving a total for the UK of 59,228 up to 17 May.

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Details released from a separate ONS survey of the social impact of coronavirus, meanwhile, reveal that almost one-third of people in Britain lived with someone who self-isolated because of the pandemic in April, the month in which Dominic Cummings drove his family 250 miles north from their home in London.

The same study found people in London had the lowest awareness of the government’s “stay at home” guidelines in April, while awareness was highest in the West Midlands.

Overall, the proportion of all deaths that involve Covid-19 and the number of excess deaths compared with the five-year average continue to decrease.

The total number of deaths from all causes rose by 1,916 to 14,573 in the week ending 15 May, after a dip as a result of the early May bank holiday in the previous week.

The disease was mentioned on the death certificates of 42,173 people in England and Wales up to 15 May, the ONS data shows.

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The latest figures from the National Records of Scotland showed 3,546 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Scotland up to 17 May, and data from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency showed 664 coronavirus-linked deaths had been registered up to 20 May.

This indicates there have been more than 46,383 UK deaths registered where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. The ONS data includes suspected cases where there has been no positive test for coronavirus.

David Leon, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the numbers confirmed a steady downward trend in both deaths from all causes and from Covid that has been evident since the middle of April.

He said they suggested that mortality rates in England and Wales are likely to reach normal pre-pandemic levels over the next few weeks, on the assumption that there is no substantial upsurge in numbers of Covid cases.

However, he and other experts flagged concern about a continuing abnormal excess of deaths in people’s own homes. For the week ending 15 May the figure was 435, while the number was 1,271 for care homes.

Sir David Spiegelhalter, a professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, also pointed out that around 8,800 fewer non-Covid deaths than normal occurred in hospitals over the seven weeks up to 15 May.

It appeared that these contributed to what he described as a huge rise in deaths at home during this period, from the normal 16,300 to 28,600.

Other findings from the ONS survey on the social impact found that 80% of adults were worried about the effect the pandemic was having on their life. People in the north-east, which includes County Durham, felt the most worried of any region.

The south-west was described by the ONS as the “most neighbourly area”, with 64% of people saying they checked on their neighbours at least once in April, compared with London where 48% had done so.

About half of people in Scotland and the north-east thought their household finances would remain the same in the coming 12 months, while those in London and the south-east were more pessimistic, with almost half (48%) saying they expected their household finances to worsen.

People aged 16 to 34 were less worried than older age groups.

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