UK Deaths: Jan 2020-March 2021

The following graphs show deaths (from all causes) during the Covid pandemic across England & Wales (source: ONS).

There are a few things to consider:

Firstly, the excess deaths (those above what we normally get) are very high for the first wave (March 2020), so we can assume that most of them were due to Covid in some way.  Some might be due to other causes, associated with lockdown for example, but generally I think it is safe to assume this was Covid hitting hard.

However, for the peak in Jan 2021 (the so-called second wave) we can’t really say the same thing.  Why?  Well, look at the lighter blue area / line below the darker blue line.  In both England & Wales the ‘extra’ deaths aren’t that many (statistically speaking).  In fact the line for Jan 2020 is not much higher than we would normally expect and is much lower than a really bad flu season, e.g. 2017/18 when we had 50,000 flu deaths.

So this is why (despite hospitals being close to breaking point and full of patients over Christmas and New Year) we might NOT have even had a second wave.  Sounds crazy but we always have a bad winter in our hospitals.  Many scientists would argue that second waves are usually much bigger than the first and ‘ours’ was just a ripple of the first.

So the question is – how many excess deaths are due to Covid?

Until this particular coronavirus came along, the vast majority of respiratory deaths in the UK were recorded as due to bronchopneumonia, pneumonia, old age, etc.  We don’t really test for flu, or other seasonal infections.  If a patient has, say, cancer, motor neurone disease or another serious disease, this will be recorded as the cause of death, even if the final illness was a respiratory infection. This means UK certifications normally under-record deaths due to respiratory infections.  At least they did until Covid came along!

Anyone dying of flu-like symptoms now is being recorded as having had Covid.

Another complicating factor is that the lockdown is likely to be suppressing other causes of death, such as road traffic accidents, workplace accidents, violent crime, etc. although suicides through mental health problems might be up.

More here.


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