Covid deaths at lowest level since before first lockdown

Covid now accounts for the lowest proportion of deaths in the UK since before lockdown began last March, official figures show.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that, in the week ending May 28, 106 people in the UK died of Covid. However, across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, a total of 10,977 people died from all causes, with the virus accounting for just 0.97 per cent of all deaths. 

The rate was largely consistent across the country but London was the worst affected, with 22 Covid deaths from 880 total registrations, a rate of 2.5 per cent.

The UK-wide figure is the lowest percentage since the week ending March 13 last year, when the proportion of Covid deaths was 0.04 per cent, with five Covid-related deaths among 12,539 all-cause deaths. 

During this early phase of the pandemic in Britain, the UK had only registered a total of five deaths from coronavirus. Boris Johnson did not announce a full nationwide lockdown until March 23. 

At the peak of the second wave in mid-January, 44 per cent of all deaths in the UK were linked to the virus. 

The ONS gathers its own data for England and Wales, and the figures are based on when a death was registered, not when it occurred.

National Records of Scotland produces figures for Scotland, while the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency crunches the numbers for Northern Ireland.

Collation of these datasets reveals that since March 6 last year, 856,879 people have died in the UK. Some 152,289 of those deaths were related to Covid, a pandemic-long average of 17.8 per cent or around one in six. 

Of the 106 Covid-related deaths in the UK for the week ending May 28 this year, the most recent available data, England had the highest number of deaths, numbering 92. Scotland registered eight, while Wales and Northern Ireland reported three each.

But of the 95 registered Covid deaths in England and Wales, more than a quarter were registered as "involving Covid-19" but not "due to Covid", indicating that the virus was not the underlying cause of death. 

The ONS estimates that in the 460 days since March 6 last year, the number of excess deaths is 115,770 above the five-year average and England accounts for 93 per cent of these. 

Among people aged 75 and over in England and Wales, there were 41 Covid-linked deaths in the week ending May 28 this year, down 99.3 per cent from the 6,145 fatalities in the week ending Jan 22. 

A sign warning members of the public in Hounslow, London, about the spread of the Indian variant

Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Prof Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, warned that the most recent ONS figures reflect a time before cases started rising due to the delta variant, which was first identified in India and is thought to be 40 per cent more transmissible. 

"The deaths registered as involving Covid-19 in the most recent week, ending May 28, would mostly have been of people who were infected in the first week of May or before," he said.

"The upturn in new cases didn’t happen until after the first week in May. So if there is going to be a rise in deaths involving Covid because of that rise in cases, it wouldn’t have shown up yet in this week’s death registration data."

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, told the House of Commons on Monday that only two per cent of people hospitalised in England with the Indian variant had received two doses of a vaccine. 

"We should all be reassured by this, because it shows that those vaccinated groups who previously made up the vast majority of hospitalisations are in the minority," Mr Hancock said. "We know that the vaccine is breaking links between infections, hospitalisations and deaths."

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