More than 150,000 people have died from coronavirus in the UK, according to Guardian analysis.
The latest figures revealed at least one in three recorded Covid-19 deaths have taken place in the past three months, with 54,445 fatalities officially counted on death certificates in the UK since the beginning of 2021. It means one in 445 people have died from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, said: “The death toll is not a surprise given the ferocity of the second wave, but you can’t see it as anything other than a failure of public health policy. There are countries that have far, far lower death rates, and it wasn’t inevitable. We had more deaths in the second wave than we did in the first wave and that really shouldn’t have been the case.”
The death toll of the second wave was higher, with 56,735 fatalities 30 days either side of the peak, compared with 44,235 in the same timeframe during the first wave, according to UK death certificate figures from the Office for National Statistics. Coronavirus deaths also hit a fresh peak in early January when 1,465 deaths were registered across the UK on 19 January, similar to the previous record daily death toll of 1,459 just over nine months earlier, on 8 April 2020.
Pagel said the government risked another increase in cases if it did not learn the lessons from previous waves. “We’re repeating some of these mistakes already,” she said. “We’ve opened schools in exactly the same conditions as we opened them last time, and cases are going up.
“What the government is hoping is that vaccinations will offset the reopening [of schools and hospitality], and they might. It’s just that if they had done the things we should’ve done in terms of isolation, ventilation and keeping cases down, we’d be in a much better position. At the moment we’re relying entirely on our vaccination programme, and as we’re seeing right now that’s quite vulnerable to international supply issues that we have little control over.”
Pagel called on the government to do more to financially support people who need to isolate and promote better indoor ventilation practices to avoid further increases in Covid case rates.
The most up-to-date death toll is 150,011, according to analysis by the Guardian. The latest figures from statistical agencies showed there have been 149,207 deaths where Covid-19 was noted on the death certificate across the UK and an additional 804 deaths which took place since those records were updated, based on the government 28-day measure.
How deaths are calculated and communicated has been fraught throughout the pandemic. In the first months of 2020 the government settled on a metric counting any death where the individual had tested positive for the virus at any time in the past as a coronavirus death. However, after concerns were raised about this approach, the current method was settled on, where only people who have died within 28 days of a positive test are included in the headline government death toll. That figure now stands at 126,573.
However, figures on the cause of death are usually based on what is recorded on the death certificate, which are published by the UK’s three statistical agencies. The Guardian’s figure collates data on coronavirus deaths from the Office for National Statistics, National Records of Scotland and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency by date of the occurrence of death. The figure is then brought up to date by adding the latest government coronavirus death figures that have occurred since the previous statistical release.
Deaths due to Covid-19 have been falling in England and Wales since February, according to figures from the ONS. There were 1,501 Covid deaths registered in the week to 12 March, a 29% decline on the previous week.
Prof David Spiegelhalter, the chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, said: “This is a grim milestone, putting us among the worst in the world. But deaths are now running below the five-year average: this is partly due to a mild winter, a predictable lack of flu, and because many people who would otherwise be dying now died when the first wave hit the old and vulnerable, particularly in care homes. The current deficit of deaths represents the shadows of those who were taken early.”
Excess deaths, which count the number of fatalities from all causes above the previous five-year average, showed that deaths in hospitals and care homes have fallen below average in the most recent figures. However, deaths in private homes remain high, with the number of people dying at home in England and Wales 30% above average during the week to 12 March, according to figures from the ONS.