England and Wales recorded another high level of coronavirus related deaths in the week ending May 22, taking the total excess deaths in the UK to almost 62,000 since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday that 12,288 deaths were registered in that week in England and Wales, 24 per cent more than normal for a week in mid-May, adding another 2,348 to the UK total excess deaths in the 10 weeks since the total rose above the past five-year average.
When data for Scotland and Northern Ireland are included, it means 61,920 more people than normal have died across the UK in the period, a rate of 929 per million, which is again the highest rate among countries with comparable data.
In a one-off revision last week, Spain recorded an extra 12,000 deaths, taking it briefly above the UK rate with an excess death rate of 921 per million.
Nick Stripe, head of life events at the ONS, said that while it was pleasing the number of deaths had fallen 16 per cent compared with the previous week, the levels were still extremely high for this time of year.
“We would normally expect to see this level of weekly death registrations in the middle of winter,” he said.
The figures show the level of excess deaths is declining and is in line with an FT updating model, which estimates the current total level of excess deaths in the UK linked to the coronavirus pandemic at 64,000.
Across the UK, the level of deaths in the week to May 22 reflected the spread of the virus from initially being concentrated in London to higher levels in the north of England.
Death registrations in the North East were still 41 per cent above the five-year average in the week ending May 22, while they were 24 per cent higher in London and only 8 per cent above normal in the South West.
There was also a close match between 2,348 excess deaths and the 2,589 deaths which had Covid-19 mentioned on death certificates.
Excess deaths is considered the best measure of the impact of coronavirus on mortality because it is not affected by different methods of testing for the virus, the assessment of doctors or whether deaths outside hospitals are included in the figures.
It includes deaths caused directly by coronavirus and those caused indirectly if normal pathways to hospitals are blocked or people are unwilling to seek treatment.
Mr Stripe said there was evidence that the government’s daily figures, even though they now included deaths in care homes, significantly underestimated the true level of mortality from Covid-19. “Covid-related death registrations are running 31 per cent higher than the daily numbers reported at the time,” he said.
Since coronavirus hit the UK hard in mid-March, the ONS said there had been 42 per cent more deaths than the five-year average in hospitals across England and Wales, 137 per cent more deaths in care homes and 67 per cent more deaths in people’s homes.
The evidence suggests the disease is still much more lethal for the elderly than for younger people, even those with underlying health conditions. Some 1,265 people out of every million aged over 90 died with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificates in the most recent week, twice the rate of people aged 85-90, where the Covid mortality rate was 635 per million.
For people under 55, the equivalent mortality rate in the most recent week was under 10 per million.