Weekly Deaths in England and Wales Now Lowest Since 2014

There were 10,311 deaths registered in England and Wales during the week ending March 19th. The weekly number of deaths was below the five-year average in both nations, as this chart from the ONS indicates:

In a piece for The Observer, David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters note that 10,311 deaths is the lowest figure since 2014 for the same week (i.e., the week ending on or around March 19th). This is noteworthy, given that the number of deaths in England and Wales has been trending upward since 2011, due to population ageing (the increase in the number of people in the oldest age-groups).

The authors suggest several reasons why the number of deaths is so low at the moment. First, the weather is fairly mild. Second, because of the lockdown, there are fewer road accidents than usual (though this is a minor contributor). Third, there are fewer flu deaths than usual: the influenza virus is less infectious than SARS-CoV-2 (it has a lower reproduction number) meaning that lockdowns and social distancing have resulted in fewer people catching flu this year. Fourth, some of the people who would have died now sadly lost their lives in the spring of 2020 or the winter of 2020-21 instead. (One could say their deaths were “brought forward” by the pandemic.)

Spiegelhalter and Masters’ article is worth reading in full.

Is Covid the Most Deadly Infectious Disease in a Century?

A new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) was all over the papers on Monday afternoon making the striking claim that COVID-19 caused more deaths last year in England and Wales than other infectious diseases have caused in any year for more than a century.

Here is the story in the Mail.

The ONS report, entitled “Coronavirus: A Year Like No Other”, was released to mark the one year anniversary of people in the UK first being told to limit their non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel. 

The report confirmed that COVID-19 caused more deaths last year than other infectious diseases caused in any year for more than 100 years. 

More than 140,000 people have died in the UK with coronavirus either described as the underlying cause or as a contributory cause on their death certificates.

Some 73,500 people in England and Wales who died in 2020 had COVID-19 registered as the underlying cause of death. 

The ONS said coronavirus is “likely to be classed as an infectious and parasitic disease”, allowing a comparison with previous deadly outbreaks. 

The statistics body said: “This means COVID-19 was the underlying cause of more deaths in 2020 than any other infectious and parasitic diseases had caused in any year since 1918; that year there were just over 89,900 deaths from various infectious and parasitic diseases registered in England and Wales.”