England had the highest excess deaths in Europe during coronavirus

England had the highest level of excess deaths in Europe during coronavirus pandemic: New figures reveal Birmingham had highest peak of deaths in UK

  • By the end of May, England had seen the highest overall relative excess mortality out of 21 European countries compared by the Office for National Statistics
  • But Spain and Italy had the highest peaks, more than anywhere in the UK 
  • Experts say excess deaths are the best way of measuring the impact of Covid-19  

England had the highest level of excess deaths in Europe over the coronavirus pandemic, new figures have revealed. 

By the end of May, England had seen the highest overall excess deaths — those above what are expected — out of 21 European countries compared by the Office for National Statistics.

But it was Spain and Italy that suffered the largest spikes in excess deaths, called ‘peaks’, suggesting they faced the hardest hits on the continent.  

Bergamo, one of the first places in Europe to go into lockdown, had the highest peak in excess mortality. It saw 847.7 per cent more deaths than usual in the week ending 20 March.

The UK’s highest peak of excess deaths was recorded in Brent, at 357.5 per cent at the height of Britain’s crisis, in the week ending April 17.

Looking at cities, the highest peak excess mortality was in Madrid at 432.7 per in the week ending March 27, as the coronavirus sweep over Spain a couple of weeks before Britain. 

Birmingham had the highest peak excess mortality of any major British city at 249.7 per cent in the week ending 17 April. 

Experts say the best way of measuring the scale of the impact of Covid-19 is by looking at excess deaths.

These include deaths caused by Covid-19, but also those that occurred as an indirect result of the pandemic, such as if someone had a heart attack because they decided not to go to hospital.

By the end of May, England had seen the highest overall relative excess mortality out of 21 European countries compared by the Office for National Statistics. But the hardest hit nations were Italy and Spain which suffered the largest spikes

WHAT ARE EXCESS DEATHS? 

Excess deaths are those which occur in addition to any that would be expected to happen in the same period in an average year.

They are measured in the UK over a five-year average.

For example, if the average number of deaths in the first week of April over the least five years was 10,000, the 10,001st person to die in that week is considered an excess death, along with any others who come after them.

Ministers have admitted ‘excess deaths’ are the most reliable measure of how many fatalities the coronavirus has actually contributed to.

They take into account not just infected people who have died of COVID-19 but also those who died because of indirect effects of the outbreak.

The biggest contribution to this is expected to be people whose medical treatment was interrupted or stopped because of the pandemic, including people who avoided going to hospital. NHS data shows A&E attendances have halved since March.

Edward Morgan, Health Analysis and Life Events, ONS said: ‘Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first half of 2020 saw extraordinary increases in mortality rates across countries in Western Europe above the 2015 to 2019 average.

‘The highest peak excess mortality at national level was in Spain, with some local areas in Northern Italy and Central Spain having excess mortality levels as high as 847.7 per cent of the average.

‘While none of the four UK nations had a peak mortality level as high as Spain or the worst-hit local areas of Spain and Italy, excess mortality was geographically widespread throughout the UK during the pandemic, whereas it was more geographically localised in most countries of Western Europe.

‘Combined with the relatively slow downward “tail” of the pandemic in the UK, this meant that by the end of May, England had seen the highest overall relative excess mortality out of all the European countries compared.’   

The ONS analysed all-cause mortality patterns during the first half of 2020 for 29 European countries using data between January 3 (Week 1) to the week ending June 12 (Week 24). 

Comparisons were made nationally, in cities and local areas — which in England are local authorities such as Buckinghamshire, Rutland and Norfolk.

The analysis of all-cause mortality allows experts to picture the impact of the coronavirus pandemic not only from deaths involving Covid-19, but also excess deaths that have occurred as a result of the wider impacts of the coronavirus on healthcare systems and society. 

It compares how many deaths have occurred in a period compared to the five-year average in that nation.

A value of 100 per cent indicates mortality rates were 100 per cent higher than — or double — that of the five-year average in a given week. 

Of the four nations of the UK, England had the highest peak excess mortality, at 107.6 per cent in week ending April 17.

In comparison, Wales’s highest peak was 67.5 per cent in the same week, Scotland’s was 71.7 per cent the week before and Northern Ireland’s was 48.2 per cent in the week ending April 24.

England saw the second highest national peak of excess mortality from the week ending February 21 to week ending June 12 compared with 21 European countries, with only Spain seeing a higher peak.

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