Freeze boosted Christmas deaths

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The toll of the Christmas freeze was revealed yesterday as official figures showed there were 15,443 deaths in the week ending 5 January after the very cold spell, more than 1,500 than expected for the time of year and a five-year high.

Provisional figures from the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys show pneumonia deaths at 2,253 between 29 December and 5 January compared with 1,429 in the same week in 1994-95. Deaths from flu were up from 4 the same time last year to 27.

A spokeswoman for the OPCS said: "Most of the increase [in deaths] is due to diseases of the respiratory system."