COVID-19 is currently causing eight times more deaths than flu or pneumonia in England and Wales, according to new data.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that coronavirus accounted for just over a fifth (21.5%) of all deaths registered in the two countries in the week ending 20 November.
A total of 2,697 deaths that mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate were registered – the highest number since May.
This amounts to eight times the deaths from flu or pneumonia, according to Sir David Spiegelhalter, chair of the University of Cambridge’s Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication.
He said: “2,697 deaths had COVID on the death certificate, and it is important to note that these are not just deaths ‘with’ COVID.
“88% of the COVID deaths, that is 2,361 people, were deaths ‘from’ COVID as the main underlying cause, only 12% were ‘with’ COVID as a secondary cause.
“In contrast, there were only 280 deaths with flu or pneumonia as the main cause of death, so COVID is currently causing more than eight times the number of deaths than flu or pneumonia.”
Spiegelhalter also predicted the second COVID wave will have caused more than 20,000 deaths by Christmas.
He said: “Between 5 September and 20 November, 12,907 deaths involving COVID were registered in the UK, and there have been roughly 3,000 since then, making 16,000 altogether in the second wave.
“Sadly, the prediction that the second wave would involve tens of thousands of COVID deaths looks like it will be fulfilled, and we can expect this second-wave total to rise to over 20,000 by Christmas.”
Watch: ONS data reveals 2,697 COVID deaths registered in week ending 20 November
But Spiegelhalter said non-COVID related deaths were actually below the five-year average, and called this development “encouraging”.
He said: “In the week ending November 20, there were 12,535 deaths registered in England and Wales, compared to a five-year average of 10,380.
“This is an excess of 2,155, a 21% increase over the five-year average. And it is also substantially larger than the peak for this week over the last 10 years, which was 10,882 in 2019.
“This is far greater than could be explained by an ageing population.”
But Spiegelhalter noted that if you take out the 2,361 deaths from COVID, there have actually been 10,274 excess deaths – lower than the five-year average of 10,380.
He said: “It is encouraging that deaths that were not caused by COVID were slightly below the five-year average.
“We might expect some deaths that would normally occur now to have been brought forward by the first wave, but this still suggests that the collateral damage of the measures against the pandemic have not yet had an impact on overall mortality.”
The week ending 20 November also saw the lowest week-on-week percentage rise in registered deaths since the start of the second wave, suggesting the increase in COVID deaths is slowing.
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