Coronavirus tracked: How badly the UK compares with the rest of Europe

New daily deaths from Covid-19 in UK is close to that of all EU countries combined

Anthony Cuthbertson
Saturday 06 June 2020 09:07 BST
Johnson rejects claims test and trace service not fully operational

With the second highest death toll from the Covid-19 coronavirus in the world, reports this week claimed that the UK had more daily deaths than the whole of the EU combined on a recent day, despite its population being just one seventh of the size.

While the actual figures are close, the data used in the graphic has a number of flaws that reveal that to be inaccurate.

The government’s daily coronavirus press conference no longer includes a slide comparing the UK’s coronavirus death toll to other countries.

The chart was removed on 10 May, after the UK overtook Italy to become the country with the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 deaths in Europe.

Nearly a month later, the UK’s death toll remains the highest in Europe, and second highest in the world behind the United States.

The latest data reveals an even more concerning trend, whereby the number of new daily deaths in the UK has begun to rise again after falling for more than a month.

Containment measures in the UK were not as strict as some other European countries, such as France or Italy, where daily deaths from coronavirus are now around a quarter the number of those in the UK.

Earlier this week, the BBC’s Newsnight reported that “the UK has more daily deaths from Covid than the rest of the entire EU put together”, displaying a chart with data taken from Worldometer.

Data researchers have criticised Worldometer for being unreliable, with Max Roser from the online data platform OurWorldInData project describing it as “misinformed” and “wrong”.

The biggest discrepancy with the data comes from Spain – another badly affected country that recently changed the way it recorded deaths from the coronavirus.

The change in counting method resulted in Covid-19 deaths dropping from several hundred per day to single figures overnight. (If this misleading method was used by the UK, the daily count would be around 20).

The UK’s daily figure for new deaths, when taken as a more representative seven-day rolling average, has in fact never exceeded the total number of daily deaths in Europe.

The UK’s average number of daily deaths from Covid-19 as of 4 June was around 330, while the figure for all European countries combined was around 430.

Both numbers have been falling consistently since mid April, though as the UK’s daily death toll begins to rise again, the number of daily deaths could soon overtake those of Europe.

While the UK has the highest number of total deaths from the coronavirus in Europe, when taken as a proportion of its population it actually ranks below Spain and Belgium.

But using this same per capita measure also reveals that the UK currently has the highest death rate of any country in the world.

This statistic, taken in context with Europe's declining death rate, means the UK could soon account for more new coronavirus deaths than every EU country combined.

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