Covid causing just one in five excess deaths in parts of England

·3-min read
Covid excess deaths omicron
Covid excess deaths omicron

As few as one in five excess deaths in parts of England can be attributed to Covid, official figures show.

Since the start of July, 22,542 more deaths than usual for this time of year have been recorded across England and Wales.

Of these deaths just 12,551 - about 56 per cent - have been linked to coronavirus, according to the Office for National Statistics.

However, this figure drops to 19 per cent in West Berkshire, where just 17 of the 90 excess deaths listed Covid as an underlying cause.

Other areas, mainly in the South West and South East of England, have seen just one in three deaths above average linked to Covid, including Somerset, Torbay, Dorset and Herefordshire.

In previous waves, almost all excess deaths could broadly be explained by coronavirus.

Some 59,324 excess deaths were recorded between March 13 and June 20 last year. In 81 per cent of these, Covid was an underlying cause.

And between September 4 and March 5 this year, there were more Covid deaths than excess deaths. This trend was due to lockdowns offsetting other illnesses common over the winter, including flu.

The reverse in this trend in this most recent wave comes as England and Wales saw its 87th consecutive week of excess deaths in the home.

Since the start of the pandemic, over 78,000 more people than usual have died in a private residence, contributing to more than half of the 125,494 excess deaths recorded across all settings.

Sarah Caul, head of mortality analysis at the ONS, says reasons for this may include “health service disruption” or “people staying at home rather than being admitted to other settings for end-of-life care”.

Calls for 'urgent investigation'

However, in November, Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, called for an “urgent investigation” into the matter.

“This could be the fallout from the lack of preventable care during the pandemic, and what happens downstream of that,” he said.

The health service has been struggling to deal with the backlog caused by the pandemic.

Compared to the eighteen months preceding the pandemic, there have been 16,000 fewer cancer treatment starts, almost two million fewer hospital appointments and 27million fewer GP appointments.

In the seven days to November 12, the latest week for which ONS figures are available, England and Wales recorded 1,719 excess deaths - the highest number since mid-September.

In the same week, the UK also recorded its highest number of Covid deaths since the same point, equivalent to roughly 60 per cent of the total.

Covid deaths down by a fifth

However, more up-to-date figures released by the Government suggest that Covid deaths have been on a downward trajectory since that point.

In the week to November 27, some 633 people in England died within a month of a positive Covid test, down by a fifth from the period week.

This decline in cases coincides with the accelerated booster campaign.

To date, some two-thirds of vulnerable over-50-year-olds have been given the third dose.

Policy-makers will now be watching what the impact of the new omicron variant will be, both in terms of vaccine efficacy and mortality rate.

So far, more than 100 cases have been sequenced in England.

Average daily cases in South Africa, the epicentre of the variant, have increased six-fold in the past week, although death rates have not seen any uptick yet.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting