Ross Clark Ross Clark

The ‘Covid deaths’ that are not caused by Covid

(Photo: Getty)

Registered Covid deaths fell to just one on Monday, leading many to comment that the epidemic in Britain is effectively over. One day’s statistics don’t mean an awful lot, especially over a bank holiday, but what about the wider picture? Over the UK as a whole, there have been 90 deaths over the past seven days, a fall of 41.2 per cent over the previous seven day period – although that, too, may be affected by the bank holiday.

A more in-depth analysis, offering more context – although a little out of date – is provided by the latest weekly analysis of deaths from all causes, published today by the Office for National Statistics and covering the week ending 23 April. It shows that in that week there were 9,941 deaths in England and Wales, 497 fewer than the previous week and 5.3 per cent lower than the five-year average. It was the seventh week in which deaths were lower than the five-week average, suggesting that that second wave of Covid-19 is now thoroughly well over – we are seeing fewer deaths than normal at this time of year, perhaps because some people who would otherwise have died now had already been carried off by Covid-19. Of those 9,941 deaths registered in the week to 23 April, 260 (2.6 per cent of the total) mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

The further the vaccination programme progresses, the fewer deaths we can expect to have Covid as underlying cause

Confusingly, the government uses two different definitions of a Covid death. Public Health England (PHE) – which produces the figures quoted in the opening paragraph – defines a Covid death as one which occurs, from any cause, within 28 days of someone testing positive for Covid-19.

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