England and Wales recorded second deadliest week of coronavirus pandemic in last week of January with 8,433 Covid victims – as care home deaths rose to highest levels since May
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows 8,433 people had the virus mentioned on their death certificates over the seven days to January 29. This is 11 fatalities more than the week before, the third-deadliest, when 8,422 were recorded.
Some 2,505 care home residents deaths also involved Covid-19 in the most recent week, which was almost a third of the total and the highest number of fatalities linked to the virus for the most vulnerable since May 1.
The deadliest week of the pandemic was at the peak of the first wave in mid-April, when 8,758 people had Covid-19 included on their death certificates.
ONS death figures are still rising because they are recording deaths from the last month, after statisticians analyse each fatality to identify all those where the virus was mentioned.
But the Department of Health’s daily updates show the number of deaths from the virus has now started to fall in line with nose-diving infections, suggesting ONS figures may also begin to drop in the next week.
There is a delay of about three weeks between someone getting infected with the virus and sadly succumbing to the disease, meaning it takes time for a dip in cases to show up in the deaths figures.
SIX OUT OF 10 DEADLIEST WEEKS ON RECORD HAPPENED DURING THE PANDEMIC
Six of the 10 deadliest weeks ever recorded in England and Wales occurred during the pandemic, statistics show.
THE 10 DEADLIEST EVER WEEKS IN ENGLAND AND WALES, SINCE ONS RECORDS BEGAN
Number of deaths
The total number of deaths from all causes registered in the week to January 29 was 18,448, 44 per cent above the five-year average for the number of fatalities expected at this time of year.
This was the second highest recorded so far this year, but below last week when 18,676 deaths were registered from all causes.
All regions in England had a higher number of deaths than average – with hotspot London worst-hit after suffering 1,144 excess deaths, double the number predicted by previous years.
But in another sign that the tide began to turn on fatalities at the end of January, plateaus in ONS-registered deaths compared to the previous week were seen in the North East, South East and the capital.
A dip was recorded in the UK’s largest city where fatalities from the virus fell by 10 per cent, or 135 deaths, from 1,400 to 1,265 in the latest week.
And there was a plateau in the North East, where they dropped by four per cent from 279 to 269, and in the South East where they fell by one per cent from 1,734 and 1,710.
All other regions saw a rise in the number of deaths from coronavirus.
The highest number of deaths from the virus was seen in the over-75s age group, at 6,542, followed by those aged 65 to 74 years old, at 1,406.
But in another glimmer of hope that Covid deaths are turning around in the ONS figures, there was also a plateau in fatalities for these age groups. The over-75s recorded 75 fewer deaths than in the previous week, and those aged 65 to 74 saw an 8-death drop.
There have been no deaths in those aged under 14 since the start of the new year, and three deaths among those in the 15 to 44 age group.
Professor David Spiegelhalter, an eminent statistician at the University of Cambridge, predicted that from next week the ONS should show a drop in Covid deaths.
‘The daily dashboard shows a clear and rapid decline in deaths involving Covid-19 since January 19th, and so next week we should see this reflected in death registrations,’ he said.
‘Deaths registered in the week ending January 29th were 45 per cent higher than the five-year average. But this is combined with extraordinarily low levels of deaths that are not caused by Covid-19, the lowest for at least 5 years.
‘There is almost no flu circulating, and sadly many vulnerable older people, who would have survived until now, have already had their lives shortened.’
Professor Rowland Kao, a statistician from the University of Edinburgh, said the total number of Covid-19 deaths registered by the ONS remained high because of the lag between someone catching the disease and sadly succumbing to the symptoms.
‘The deaths we are seeing are at least in part due to the very large numbers of infections we saw that continued into January,’ he said.
‘The fact that the absolute numbers are on the decline mirrors the decline in cases we have seen over the last few weeks, and is good news in that it is further evidence that the epidemic of Covid-19 in England and Wales appears to be on the decline under the current measures.
‘Deaths will decline more slowly than might have been expected prior to the dominance of the “Kent” B.1.1.7 variant, for which the evidence is that it has a higher rate of fatalities for those infected.
‘This, and the still high numbers of deaths, means that continued vigilance needs to applied.
‘However, especially as the current vaccines appear to have continued protection against severe disease, we can expect the numbers of deaths to continue to decline, so long as other non-pharmaceutical restrictions remains sufficient.’
It comes after the Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday claimed Britain is ‘turning a corner in our battle against coronavirus’ as daily deaths plunged to a six-week low and cases continued to fall.
Department of Health figures show another 333 Covid victims were recorded, the lowest 24-hour toll since December 27 and a drop of 18 per cent on the 406 last Monday.
Another 14,104 infections were also added to the official tally. The daily figure has dropped by a quarter week-on-week, with yesterday’s number lower than at any time since December 8. Analysis shows infection rates are lower than at any time since before Christmas in all four nations of the UK.
Despite revealing the second wave was shrinking, the Health Secretary warned the number of infected patients in hospital and daily deaths were both still ‘far too high’. Almost 30,000 NHS hospital beds are currently taken up by Covid patients — 50 per cent higher than the worst days of the first wave last spring but down from 40,000 at the peak of the second wave in January.
Praising the success of lockdown in a Downing Street press conference, he said: ‘We are turning a corner in our battle against coronavirus, the vaccine rollout is going well, and if you are aged 70 or over and haven’t been contacted yet please get in touch now.
‘And all the time we must be vigilant and do what it takes to tackle any new variants that arise. For now, the most important thing that you can do is get the jab when the time comes, stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.’