ONS

Flu and Pneumonia Deaths Now 10 Times Higher Than Covid Deaths

The latest data from the ONS, published today, reveals that just 84 people died of Covid in England and Wales in the week ending June 11th, less than 10% of deaths from flu and pneumonia and one of the lowest weekly totals since the pandemic began. Sarah Knapton, the Telegraph‘s Science Editor, has more.

The number of people dying with flu and pneumonia on their death certificate in England and Wales is now ten times higher than those with Covid, figures show.

Latest weekly data on deaths from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows there were just 84 deaths mentioning Covid in the week ending June 11. In contrast, there were 1,163 deaths involving flu and pneumonia.

Registered Covid deaths fell by 14% since the last update in the week ending June 4th, when there were 98 deaths recorded.

Covid deaths now make up just 0.8% of all deaths – down from 1.3% in the previous week, despite the fact that week included the late May bank holiday, which meant there were fewer death registrations.

The latest figure of 84 deaths is only the third time the weekly total has dipped below 100 since last September, and is one of the lowest since the pandemic began.

Worth reading in full.

Age-Standardised Mortality Rate Falls To Lowest Level on Record, Again

The ONS announced today that there were 35,401 deaths registered in England in May, which is 9% less than in March, and 10.7% less than the five-year average. As I keep mentioning, however, the best overall measure of mortality isn’t the number of deaths, but rather the age-standardised mortality rate.

In May, the age-standardised mortality rate was 12% lower than in April, and a remarkable 16.7% lower than the five-year average. Like April’s figure, it was the lowest on record for that month. In fact, it was the second-lowest figure on record for any month. (The only lower figure was last August’s age-standardised mortality rate.)

This means that the last two months have both seen recorded-breakingly low levels of mortality. (The ONS’s dataset goes back as far as 2001, and given that mortality has been decreasing more-or-less continuously for the past few decades, April and May’s figures were probably the lowest ever.)

This chart from the ONS shows the age-standardised mortality rate for the first five months of the year, each year, going back to 2001:

Although 2021’s figure was higher than the figure for 2019, it was 2.2% lower than the figure for 2015 and 2.5% lower than the figure for 2018. This means that – despite higher-than-expected mortality in January and February – the overall level of mortality in the first five months of 2021 was actually lower than three years before.

The past three months have “cancelled out” more than 70% of the age-adjusted excess mortality observed in January and February. If June’s age-standardised mortality rate comes in as low as May’s, the overall level of mortality in the first five months of 2021 will be below the five-year average.

Stop Press: MailOnline reports that COVID-19 was the 24th leading cause of death in England in May, and made up fewer than 1% of all fatalities.

Almost 40% Of Recent Covid Victims Died Primarily of Other Conditions

Reported Covid deaths have been low in recent weeks but the real number of people for whom the virus was a major cause of death is lower still, according to the latest figures which show that almost 40% of recently registered Covid deaths in England and Wales were people who died primarily from another condition. The Telegraph has the story.

Out of 107 Covid deaths registered in the week ending May 21st, just 66 had the virus recorded as the underlying cause of death – 61.7%. 

For the rest of the cases, although coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate it was not a major cause.

It is the lowest number of deaths with Covid as the underlying cause since the week ending March 13th, 2020 – the first week that deaths involving Covid were registered in England and Wales, when just five registrations were listed.

The ONS continues to include those who did not primarily die of Covid in its official statistics, even though the World Health Organisation has issued guidance warning they should not be classified as Covid deaths in official figures.

The data lends support to claims that although cases have been rising in Britain in recent weeks, due largely to the Indian [“Delta”] variant, that is not so far translating into a significant increase in deaths.

On Tuesday, the Government announced the first day without any Covid deaths since before the first lockdown in March last year…

The weekly ONS data show that Covid is now mentioned in only around one in 90 death registrations in England and Wales – the equivalent of just 1.1% of all deaths registered in the week.

It is the lowest proportion since the week ending September 11th, when the figure was 1.0%. At the peak of the second wave, in the week ending January 29th, the figure stood at 45.7%. 

The number of Covid deaths registered in England and Wales in the most recent week, to May 21st, is also the lowest since the week to September 11th.

Worth reading in full.

Vulnerable People Continuing to Shield Despite No Longer Needing to, According to New Data

The four million people in England and Wales who have been advised to shield were told they no longer needed to in April. In England, most clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people are aware of this change in guidance and most have been fully vaccinated against Covid. But half have decided to continue shielding anyway. The Evening Standard has the story.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that 50% of CEV people said they were continuing to shield when asked between April 26th and May 1st.

But an ONS analysis, published on Friday, found that 84% reported being aware that Government advice to shield had been paused and that two-thirds (67%) had received two doses of coronavirus vaccine.

Tim Gibbs, Head of the Public Services Analysis team at the ONS, said: “Since April 1st, 2021, CEV people have been advised that they no longer need to shield to protect themselves from Covid.

“Our results today show that although Government advice to shield has paused, half of those identified as CEV reported continuing to shield.

“We’ve recently seen lockdown restrictions ease significantly, this is great to see, however, it’s critical that we continue to monitor the impact of these changes on groups such as the clinically extremely vulnerable.”

The ONS added that approximately 420,000 of CEV people (11%) were estimated to have not left the house in the last seven days.

There are a total of 3.7 million people in England identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable to severe impact from COVID-19, the ONS said.

Worth reading in full.

Age-Standardised Mortality Rate Falls To Lowest Level on Record

The ONS announced today that there were 38,899 deaths registered in England in April, which is 15% less than in March, and 6% less than the five-year average. However, as I’ve noted before, the best overall measure of mortality isn’t the number of deaths, or even the death rate, but rather the age-standardised mortality rate.

In April, the age-standardised mortality rate was 12% lower than in March, and a remarkable 12.5% lower than the five-year average. As a matter of fact, it was the lowest on record for that month. (The ONS’s dataset goes back as far as 2001, and given that mortality has been decreasing more-or-less continuously for the past few decades, April’s age-standardised mortality rate was probably the lowest ever.)

This chart from the ONS shows the age-standardised mortality rate for the first four months of the year, each year, going back to 2001:

Although 2021’s figure was higher than the figure for 2019, it was only 0.2% higher than the figure for 2018, and was actually equal to the figure for 2015. Hence – despite higher-than-expected mortality in January and February – the overall level of mortality in the first four months of the year was close to what you’d expect.

If the age-standardised mortality rate remains low for the next two or three months, it will “cancel out” a large share of the excess mortality observed in the second wave. Indeed, the most plausible explanation for the current low level of mortality is that deaths were “brought forward” by the pandemic.

This post has been updated.

Crowds at Concerts and Sporting Events Could Plummet if People Face Long Waits in “Socially” Distanced Queues, According to ONS Data

While most Brits continue to support Covid restrictions, most would be put off going to concerts and sporting events if they had to spend hours in “socially”-distanced queues and wear face masks throughout, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). “Britons love to queue, but not that much,” says Gabriella Swerling in the Telegraph.

The weekly ONS survey on the social impacts of Covid for May 5th to 9th found compliance with measures to stop the spread of the virus remained generally high.

However, new questions revealed that most adults were nervous about attending organised events as lockdown restrictions ease. 

Between April 28th and May 3rd, the ONS asked adults how the pandemic had affected the likelihood of them attending such events.  It found 41% would feel more positive about attending if an event required people to show proof of a negative Covid test.

In comparison, 71% said they would be less likely to attend an organised event if they had to spend an extra two hours in a venue while a socially-distanced queue was formed.

Researchers also found that having no social distancing, being told to wear a face covering during an entire event and not being able to eat or buy food also made people less likely to want to attend.

Reports suggest that whether people want to spend hours queuing or not, audience numbers at large events will be capped even after the “end” of lockdown on June 21st. Football’s UEFA is said to have already been told by the Government that crowd sizes at upcoming events will be limited to 45,000.

The Telegraph report is worth reading in full.

Deaths at Home Rise by a Third as Patients Stay Away From Hospital

There were more deaths from all causes in homes in each month of 2020 than in a normal year, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), as treatment waiting lists and the “protect the NHS” drive kept patients away from hospitals. The Times has the story.

A total of 166,576 deaths in private homes from all causes were registered in 2020, compared with an average of 125,255 between 2015 and 2019, according to the ONS.

This means there were 41,321 extra deaths, or “excess deaths”, in private homes during the year, although Covid was responsible for 8% of the total.

The majority of deaths in 2020 where coronavirus was the main cause occurred in hospitals and care homes. In contrast, many deaths from other causes, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, happened in private homes, to people who in a non-pandemic year would probably have died elsewhere, such as in hospital.

The figures show that deaths from diabetes in private homes were 60% higher in 2020 compared with the average for 2015-19, while those from heart disease and Parkinson’s disease were both up 66%.

For dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, deaths were up 65%, with increases of 44% and 37% for prostate cancer and breast cancer respectively…

The rise in deaths in private homes comes amid concern that during the pandemic people have not been receiving the medical attention for serious illnesses they would have in normal circumstances. In the early stages of the pandemic GPs and hospitals reported a drop in the number of patients and urged people to contact their doctor if they had a health issue.

Worth reading in full.

Alcohol Deaths Rise to Highest Level Since Records Began in England and Wales

Alcohol killed more people in England and Wales last year than in any other year since records began, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), as many Brits turned to drink to cope with the isolation – and other forms of suffering – caused by the lockdowns. MailOnline has the story.

An ONS report published today revealed there were 7,423 fatalities linked to drinking last year, which was a fifth more than in 2019 and the highest number since records began in 2001.

People living in the poorest parts of the countries were four times more likely to have died from alcohol abuse compared to those in the wealthiest areas.

Alcohol-related deaths have been rising for decades. But they rose quickest from March 2020 onwards, after the first national lockdown came into force, and got progressively worse as the year went on.  

Most deaths were related to long-term drinking problems and dependency – with alcoholic liver disease making up 80% of cases. 

But experts told MailOnline that a year of social restrictions likely exacerbated Britain’s drinking problem. Dozens of surveys found people drank more than usual during lockdowns to cope with isolation, boredom and anxiety about the pandemic.

One in 10 of the alcohol-related deaths were from mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol misuse and 6% were from accidental alcohol poisoning…

Professor Paul Hunter, an Epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, previously told MailOnline it was possible some of the increase was caused by excessive drinking during lockdown speeding up the deaths. 

“If people with liver disease start drinking again, especially binge drinking, that would certainly be very bad for their liver and could lead to liver failure and subsequent death,” he added. 

He added the spike in liver disease deaths could be down to patients struggling to access healthcare. Waiting lists have soared to record levels as a result of the NHS focusing on Covid patients. 

The number of people dying because of alcohol got worse as lockdowns progressed through 2020.

Compared to 2019, there were just 8% more fatalities by March last year, compared to 30% more between October and December.

But between 2019 and 2020 the rise was 19.6%. 

The spike highlights the “devastating impact” of the pandemic on problem drinking, according to the Portman Group – a regulator for alcohol labelling, packaging and promotions.

The increase in people dying from drink may partly explain last year’s drop in registered suicides – along with delays to coroner inquests – since they would be recorded as unintended injury deaths rather than as suicides.

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

England and Wales See Seventh Consecutive Week of Negative Excess Deaths

The ONS announced today that there were 9,941 deaths in England and Wales in the week ending April 23rd, which is 497 fewer than the previous week. In addition, this week’s number is 5% below the five-year average, and marks the seventh consecutive week of “negative excess deaths”. Here’s the chart from the ONS:

Over the last seven weeks of ONS reports, there were 5,511 fewer deaths than you’d expect based on the average of the last five years. And recall that, because the population is ageing, the five-year average slightly understates the expected number of deaths. So the true level of “negative excess mortality” is even higher.

The number of deaths registered in the week ending April 23rd was below the five-year average in eight out of nine English regions. (Only London saw positive excess deaths.) Compared to the five-year average, weekly deaths were 6.8% lower in Wales, and 8.1% lower in the South East.

At the beginning of April, David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters wrote a piece suggesting a number of possible reasons for the low number of deaths in England and Wales: mild weather; fewer road accidents and flu deaths due to lockdown; and deaths having been “brought forward” by the pandemic.

Given that we are no longer in winter or the flu season, and there has been an increase in mobility since March, it seems unlikely that the first three factors they mentioned can account for more than a small share of the “negative excess deaths” observed in April. Rather, this phenomenon is probably explained by deaths having been “brought forward” by the pandemic.

Current Level of Depression More Than Double What it Was Before the First Lockdown

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) provides an insight into the extent of the damage done to the nation’s mental health by a year of lockdowns. Most notably, the percentage of British adults who experienced some form of depression in the first months of 2021 was more than double that recorded before the first lockdown began. Here are the key findings:

Around one in five (21%) adults aged 16 years and over in Great Britain experienced some form of depression (indicated by moderate to severe depressive symptoms) in early 2021 (January 27th to March 7th), an increase from 19% in November 2020. Rates in early 2021 were more than double those observed before the coronavirus pandemic, where 10% of adults experienced some form of depression.

…Younger adults and people living with a child aged under 16 years had the largest increases in rates of depressive symptoms in early 2021, when compared with pre-pandemic levels.

For adults aged 16 to 39 years, rates in early 2021 were more than double (29%) when compared with before the pandemic (11%). In comparison, 10% of adults aged 70 years and over experienced some form of depression in early 2021, compared with 5% before the pandemic.

In early 2021, around one in three (35%) adults who reported being unable to afford an unexpected but necessary expense of £850 experienced some form of depression, compared with one in five (21%) adults before the pandemic. For adults who were able to afford this expense, 13% experienced depressive symptoms in early 2021, increasing from 5% before the pandemic…

After controlling for sex and other characteristics, when compared with those aged 70 years and over, younger adults continued to be more likely to experience some form of depression, with adults aged 16 to 29 years having the highest odds of all age groups.

At the same time, the quality of the treatment given to mental health patients has fallen because of the (lockdown-induced) difficulty – and, at times, impossibility – of in-person meetings. We recently covered a study that found that for some patients, video calls made matters worse.

The ONS report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Mail has run a story about GPs’ “fears over a lockdown depression time bomb”.