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UK ONS: We’ve avoided a repeat of last Spring

This is great news! Admittedly, April & May 2020 were awful in the UK but we could so easily have repeated or even exceeded that loss of life this winter.

Covid-19 still caused an elevated death toll of 31% over December & January, but this compares favourably with the 64% additional deaths we suffered in the Spring.

January deaths are historically higher than April or May – and they were this year, too, but here’s a curious point …

Covid-19 caused way more deaths than our ‘excess’ figure.

In January 2021, our non-Covid deaths were 20% below average.

That’s 10,105 lives saved in just the one month. Very sadly, these were replaced in spades by 33,301 people dying of Covid-19. But there’s an interesting implication!

If we practised this level of disease control all the time, far fewer of us would die.

The purple-striped line marks the level of ‘normal’ deaths – people with respiratory disease and all other causes. See how it mostly falls below the white ‘average’ line?

At the early stages of the pandemic, doctors were unsure whether to mark a death as due to Covid so they would often play it safe by putting the cause of death down as respiratory disease. I’m not allowing for that in this calculation, though, because I don’t know how many times it happened. I’m working on the basis that all the death certificates are accurate and, for reasons unknown, April 2020 saw a large increase in respiratory mortalities that were not connected with the coronavirus.

  • Even with the bulge, we saw 10,770 fewer normal deaths from 20th March 2020 – 29th Jan 2021.
  • Going back over whole 13 months January – January, there were 14,875 fewer normal deaths than usual.

I know we can’t live with lockdowns every year, but I wonder how many lives we could have saved with just our masks, hygiene and hand-washing?

The same point made by weekly averages:

Normal deaths in England & Wales average out at 9,997 a week. Since the pandemic started 12,254 a week have died: an excess of 2,257 extra fatalities per week.

But more than that number have died of Covid-19: an average of 2,517 per week. This leaves 9,737 non-Covid deaths per week. 9,997-9,737 = 260 lives a week have been saved during the pandemic, while so many others have died from it.

Our position among our watched group:

Poor Portugal has overtaken the USA on Covid mortality. The UK‘s rate of increase is almost as fast, both starting to smoothe off a little. Our ONS coronavirus mortality runs even higher. Recent figures are encouraging (more on this later) but it’s certainly not yet time to go running around the streets hugging everybody.

Hands, face, space, and stay home

because it’s really working!


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