The number of registered deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales dipped for the second week in a row before the new COVID-19 strain was announced, new data shows.
A total of 2,756 deaths which mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate happened in the week to 11 December, a decrease of 79 from the amount registered the week before, according to the Office for National Statistics.
This came in the week after England’s lockdown was lifted on 2 December and the week before health secretary Matt Hancock announced information about the new virus variant.
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Despite the slight drop of coronavirus-related deaths, the number of registered deaths was 14.3% above the five-year average (1,542 deaths higher).
Coronavirus accounted for 22.4% of all deaths in England and Wales in the week to 11 December, the ONS said.
The figures come as coronavirus cases in the UK continue to grow amid worries over the newly-identified variant.
The chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said it emerged in London or Kent in mid-September and had a “significant substantial increase in transmissibility”.
It could be up to 70% more transmissible and Sir Patrick said by December it accounted for more than 60% of new infections in the capital.
A total of 33,364 new COVID-19 cases and 215 deaths were reported on Monday, following the 35,928 cases and 326 deaths reported on Sunday.
Surging cases have caused the government to completely rethink its Christmas policy and plunged London and parts of England into the new, highly-restrictive Tier 4.
Scientists have also warned that daily coronavirus deaths could reach 900 by the new year – nearly double the seven-day average of 462 deaths seen across the UK by Sunday.
Cambridge University’s Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit said between 619 and 899 fatalities could take place on 1 January.
Its forecast is based on those who die within 60 days of a positive COVID-19 test, compared to the government’s methodology, which separates those who die after 28 days of a positive test.
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