UK’s wider Covid-19 death toll passes 175,000

Deaths in the third wave remain lower than in the first and second wave

Ian Jones
Tuesday 11 January 2022 12:06
A volunteer adds hearts to the Covid memorial wall in Westminster, central London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
A volunteer adds hearts to the Covid memorial wall in Westminster, central London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

More than 175,000 people in the UK have had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate since the pandemic began, new figures show.

It comes just days after the government’s preferred death toll, which counts only people who have died within 28 days of testing positive, reached 150,000.

A total of 176,035 deaths involving coronavirus have now been registered in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

(PA Graphics)

This includes all instances where Covid-19 has been mentioned on someone’s death certificate, either as a main cause of death or a contributory factor.

The ONS figures provide the fullest picture so far of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the population.

The 175,000 total was passed on December 20 2021, but has only now been confirmed due to the time it takes for deaths to be registered.

Because the Government’s narrower count is limited to people who died within 28 days of a positive test, it is likely to have missed a number of deaths linked to coronavirus – particularly during the first wave of the virus in spring 2020, when only a small amount of people were being tested for Covid-19, mostly in hospitals and care homes.

It is almost two years since the UK’s first known death involving coronavirus.

Peter Attwood, 84, from Chatham in Kent died in hospital on 30 January 2020 – though Covid-19 was not formally recorded on his death certificate until the end of August that year.

The cumulative number of deaths involving coronavirus passed 50,000 on 22 May 2020, reached 100,000 on 6 January 2021 and 150,000 on 8 March 2021.

By contrast, the number of deaths based on the narrower count did not reach 50,000 until 7 November 2020, passed 100,000 on 22 January 2021 and only reached 150,000 on 6 January this year – around 10 months after the equivalent figure for the wider death count.

These figures are based on when deaths actually occurred, not when they were reported.

(PA Graphics)

Around nine in 10 deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate have coronavirus as the primary cause of death, with a minority listing the virus as a contributory factor.

Analysis of the ONS data by the PA news agency shows that:

– The highest number of deaths involving Covid-19 to occur on a single day was 1,485, on 19 January 2021.

– During the first wave of the virus, the daily toll peaked at 1,461 on 8 April 2020.

– A total of 94,998 deaths involving Covid-19 took place in the UK in 2020, compared with 81,037 in 2021 – though this figure will rise once all deaths that occurred at the end of last year have been registered.

– There were 57,896 deaths in the first wave (up to 31 August 2020), 96,022 in the second wave (1 September 2020 to 22 May 2021) and 22,117 so far in the third wave (from 23 May 2021). These calculations are based on the dates used by the ONS for categorising the first, second and third waves.

Separate figures published by the ONS on Tuesday showed that 582 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 31 December mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

This is down 32 per cent on the previous week, but the ONS said the number was affected by the bank holidays on 27 and 28 December, when register offices were likely to be closed.

Around one in 14 (6.9 per cent) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to 31 December mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

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