Deaths in the most recent week for which data are available were 9.3% below the five-year average in England and Wales, prompting questions of why in such a mild winter the Government is being slow to join countries like Denmark in reclassifying COVID-19, repealing pandemic laws and lifting the state of emergency.
Figures from the ONS released today show that in the week ending January 28th 2022, there were 1,269 fewer deaths registered in England and Wales compared to the five-year average, which is 9.3% lower. This figure uses data from 2016-19 and 2021 as the five-year average, missing out 2020 as a pandemic year. However, deaths in January 2021 were very high, so this skews the five-year average upwards. Nonetheless, compared with the 2015 to 2019 five-year average, deaths in England and Wales were still 2.8% below average (359 fewer deaths).
The figures also show that almost a third of Covid deaths in the most recent week did not have COVID-19 recorded as underlying cause on the death certificate. Of the 1,385 deaths involving COVID-19, 71.2% (986 deaths) had Covid recorded as the underlying cause of death (compared with 72.9% in the previous week). This means 28.8% of deaths officially counted as Covid deaths were registered as from another underlying cause.
Reflecting the low mortality, excess deaths in hospitals and care homes were running well below average, at 17.9% and 20.1% below respectively. However, deaths in private homes continue to run high, being 17.8% (557 deaths) above the five-year average. While some of this may be displacement from hospitals and care homes, with people continuing to avoid them, the full circumstances around this ongoing issue need to be properly investigated.