The BBC are reporting 697,000 deaths in the UK in 2020 – nearly 85,000 more than would be expected based on the average in the previous five years. Actually, the first cases of COVID were recorded at the end of January 2020 and, as the BBC acknowledges, the ONS data is only available until November 2020, so these figures only really account for deaths between Feb and Nov 2020 (roughly 10 months).
In a damning indictment of the government’s performance in dealing with the COVID pandemic, the Chief Exectuve of the King’s Fund, Richard Murray, said “The UK has one of the highest rates of excess deaths in the world, with more excess deaths per million people than most other European countries or the US.” Matthew Reed, from the charity Marie Curie, added that there’s also been a sizeable jump in the number of premature deaths from other causes resulting from people not getting the care they needed in the home.
Sky News have also looked at the ONS data during the pandemic and compared it to other national crisis events over the last 180yrs and they’ve been able to show that we’re on target to exceed the total number of lives lost in 1918 when 600,000 people died in England and Wales during the last year of WW1 and when the country was also struggling with the Spanish Flu.
Incidentally, some of the more astute amongst our readers might have spotted that the graph shows there was a gradual and fairly consistent decrease in the number of deaths in England & Wales for nearly four decades leading up to 2011 and then, suddenly, we see a a complete reversal with death figures increasing significantly between 2011 and 2019, with an even sharper rise in 2020. ONS data on the annual number of deaths in England and Wales between 1990 and 2019 actually shows that between 1990 and 2011 (i.e. over 21yrs) we saw deaths in England and Wales drop by 80,479 a year, however, between 2011 and 2019 (over 8yrs) we saw deaths rise by 46,474 a year (approx. half the number of deaths we are currently attributing to COVID). Sadly we won’t have a vaccine for the Tory pandemic anytime soon.
Sky do, however, acknowledge that these figures do not take population sizes into consideration and the UK population has grown significantly over the last century. For example, ONS data shows that between 1951 and 2018 (a 67yr period), the UK population grew by approx. 16,148,700. The data therefore shows that fewer people are dying today by percentage of population than in 1918, which is understandable due to improved health care, advances in medicines and treatments, better housing, better welfare services etc. That said, when you look at more recent data and compare the average figures for the last 5yrs, you realise that the number of excess deaths, as a proportion of the population, rose by 12.1% in 2020.
Sky then go a step further and factor in ‘age-standardised mortality’. Given the fact that the UK population is ageing and a higher percentage of the population are living significantly past the age of 80, age-standardised mortality allows for the higher rate of mortality expected in the older age groups. What they discovered was a shocking drop in mortality improvements, suggesting (not surprisingly) a significant rise in deaths of people in the higher age groups…
With figures like this and given that we don’t yet have the full data for 2020, Sky are right to call it “a moment of near unparalleled loss of life” and they are also right to speculate over how much worse the situation might have been if we hadn’t endured strict lockdown conditions for the best part of a year. Just a shame that they stopped short of speculating how much better things might have been if the government had taken action sooner, hadn’t put out so many confusing and mixed messages, hadn’t gifted £billions in contracts to private contractors (mostly Tory donors) who had no expertise or experience in procurement of medical equipment or in providing an effective test and trace system or even if the government had just a basic understanding of how viruses spread. Taking decisions like keeping schools open throughout the pandemic, for example, will no doubt become a hot topic for debate when we finally get around to investigating the governments performance during this awful pandemic.
Spotlight is 100% independent. Our content is free for all to read and share and we also prefer to stay advert free. If you appreciate this content then please consider supporting Spotlight by subscribing or making a one off donation. You can take out a monthly subscription for as little as £1 a month or you can make a one-off donation if you prefer.