One in four deaths in week up to Christmas involved coronavirus

Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent and Ian Jones, PA
·3-min read

One in four deaths in England and Wales registered in the week leading up to Christmas involved coronavirus, figures show.

There were 11,520 deaths registered in the week ending December 25, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Of these, 2,912 (25.3%) mentioned “novel coronavirus” on the death certificate.

The number of registered coronavirus deaths and deaths from all causes both fell compared with the previous week.

Deaths involving Covid-19 in England & Wales.
(PA Graphics)

The ONS said the figures for the most recent week should be interpreted with caution as they had been affected by the Christmas Day bank holiday.

The number of deaths registered traditionally falls between these weeks, it added.

Despite the falls, the number of deaths was 44.8% (3,566 deaths) higher than the average for this week over the past five years.

The ONS said this was because this week in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 contained two bank holidays, as opposed to the one in 2020.

Registered deaths in all locations – hospitals, care homes, private homes and elsewhere – were all above the five-year average for this week.

This was also the case for all regions in England, and Wales.

Cumulative Covid-19 deaths in the UK.
(PA Graphics)

The number of deaths involving Covid-19 fell in five regions in England, but continued to rise in the North East, East and London, and Wales.

Provisional figures, covering from December 28 2019 to December 25 2020, show 55.4% of deaths involving Covid-19 were in men.

The number of deaths across this period was above the five-year average for all age groups above 14 years.

There were 604,029 deaths registered up to December 25 – 72,900 more than the five-year average.

Of these, 78,467 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate – 13% of all deaths in England and Wales.

Some 52,954 deaths (67.5%) occurred in hospitals, 20,098 in care homes, 3,779 in private homes, 1,055 in hospices, 311 in other communal establishments and 270 elsewhere.

The number of deaths which occurred over this period will rise as more deaths are registered.

Veena Raleigh, senior fellow at the King’s Fund, said the Government must learn from the consequences of its previous responses to the crisis.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

She said: “With the new coronavirus variant driving rapidly rising infection rates throughout December, and the impact of the relaxation of rules over Christmas still to be added to these figures, we will sadly continue to see the deadly consequences of the rapid spread of the virus over the coming weeks.

“It is impossible to quantify the impacts of individual factors on the spread of the virus, but the failure to respond more quickly, even if it meant making unwelcome decisions, has undoubtedly been a contributor.

“The rollout of vaccinations will help in reducing the death toll but the virus will remain a deadly threat for months to come.”

Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said the ONS figures do not yet reflect the large increases in confirmed cases of Covid-19.

He said: “To some extent that’s because it takes time, typically a few weeks, between someone being infected and their death, if, sadly, that occurs.

“Confirmed cases have been rising pretty steeply, but only since late November, about the time that the second English lockdown ended (though the rise started a little earlier in some parts of the country).

“These ONS data only go up to four weeks after that, and the position in the most recent week is not clear because of the registration delay issue.

“Unfortunately, I’m expecting a rise in deaths registered over the next couple of weeks, following the rise in confirmed cases. I just hope that rise isn’t too great.”