COVID killed three times as many people as flu and pneumonia combined this year

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·2-min read
Ambulance outside hospital during coronavirus pandemic. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)
COVID-19 caused three more times deaths than pneumonia and flu combined in the first eight months of 2020. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

Coronavirus caused three more times =deaths than pneumonia and flu combined in the first eight months of this year, newly-released figures show.

In England and Wales there were a total of 48,168 deaths due to COVID-19 between January and August – compared to 13,619 due to pneumonia and 394 deaths due to influenza, according to the Office for National Statistics.

COVID accounted for 12.4% of all deaths in this period, while 3.5% were down to pneumonia and 0.1% due to flu.

The number of deaths due to flu, pneumonia or COVID in England and Wales. (ONS)
The number of deaths due to flu, pneumonia or COVID in England and Wales. (ONS)

Sarah Caul, head of mortality analysis at the ONS, said: “More than three times as many deaths were recorded between January and August this year where COVID-19 was the underlying cause compared to influenza and pneumonia.

“The mortality rate for COVID-19 is also significantly higher than influenza and pneumonia rates for both 2020 and the five-year average.

Watch: Coronavirus UK death toll rises to 42,515

"Since 1959, which is when ONS monthly death records began, the number of deaths due to influenza and pneumonia in the first eight months of every year have been lower than the number of COVID-19 deaths seen, so far, in 2020.”

The ONS said their data focuses on cases where people died due to COVID, flu or pneumonia – rather than deaths where the conditions were either the underlying cause or mentioned as a contributing factor.

Including deaths where COVID-19 was an underlying cause or contributing factor, there were some 52,327 deaths involving the disease.

Both flu and pneumonia were mentioned on more death certificates but the underlying of cause of death being COVID-19 was greater.

In care homes, the proportion of deaths due to COVID-19 (30%) was almost double the proportion of deaths due to flu and pneumonia (15.4%).

A member of the public passes COVID-19 public information displays on 4 October 2020 in Slough, United Kingdom. Slough Borough Council confirmed on 2nd October that its coronavirus infection rate is the highest in the south of England and Slough MP Tan Dhesi asked Health Secretary Matt Hancock in Parliament whether the local test centre in Montem Lane could be reverted to permit walk-in and drive-in visits without an appointment. (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
A member of the public passes COVID-19 public information displays in Slough. (Getty)

The figure show that deaths caused by flu and pneumonia have been below the five-year average for every month between January and August this year.

The highest number of deaths from these causes were in January – but the largest difference from the five-year average of any month, with 1,151 fewer deaths than average, was also seen in the same month.

The figures come as northern cities face the possibility of tougher restrictions – including the closure of pubs – after a rapid rise in COVID cases.

Watch: UK coronavirus cases rising - why are deaths still low?