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Friday, September 25, 2020
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Death rates return to normal – but not in care homes

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THE number of deaths in hospitals in England and Wales registered in the week ending May 8 was below average, figures revealed yesterday.

And the overall number of deaths (12,657 – down from 17,953 the previous week) was close to and fast heading into the normal range, according to the weekly Office for National Statistics report. 

Deaths in hospitals were 114 lower than the five-year average for the same week, while deaths above the five-year average in care homes were 2,247 – down from 4,331 the previous week.

England and Wales are on track to be back close to a normal numbers of deaths by next week’s report, for the week ending May 15.

Although deaths from Covid-19 have in the last two weeks continued to be recorded at several hundred per day, it appears these no longer represent much above the normal number of deaths for the time of year.

In fact, for the general population outside care homes, we have been back close to the normal range of deaths since May 8(Week 19) – or rather a bit earlier, since these figures relate to when deaths were registered, which usually lags when they occurred by a few days.

Although hospital deaths were back below average in Week 19, there were still 948 excess deaths in private homes, only 156 of which were with Covid-19, leaving 792 non-Covid. Is this because people are too afraid to go to hospital, or being made to feel they shouldn’t? 

Deaths in care homes are heading down fast. But of the 2,247 excess deaths in Week 19, 1,665 were with Covid-19, leaving 582 non-Covid deaths that still need to be explained.

Overall for the year up to May 8, there have been 37,375 deaths registered with Covid-19. Of these, 24,883 (66.6 per cent) were in hospital, 9,980 (26.7 per cent) in care homes, 1,727 (4.6 per cent) in private homes and 785 (2.1 per cent) elsewhere.

There have been 49,647 deaths above the five-year average since the epidemic began spiking in the week ending March 20. This means 12,272 (24.7 per cent), or nearly a quarter, of the excess deaths during the epidemic are not registered with Covid-19 and need further explanation. Further investigation is also needed of deaths with Covid-19 to ascertain the true role played by the coronavirus compared to other factors. 

It is very good to see these numbers coming down, but there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered, in particular about more than 12,000 additional deaths in the last few weeks that are not connected with Covid-19.

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Will Jones
Will Jones
Dr Will Jones is a maths graduate with a PhD in political philosophy and author of Evangelical Social Theology: Past and Present (Grove, 2017).He blogs at https://faith-and-politics.com/

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