Office for National Statistics numbers showed 25 per cent of all deaths in that week – 2,912 out of 11,520 – were linked to Covid-19. It is the highest proportion of weekly Covid deaths so far in the second wave.
Covid deaths appeared to drop in that week but experts said this was because of the festive bank holiday, so the figures should be ‘treated with caution’.
Numbers of people dying with the virus dropped slightly in early December following November’s second lockdown, but then started to rise again towards the middle and end of the month as the second wave picked up steam again.
The total number of deaths registered was also 44.8 per cent above the average for that time of year, which is 7,954, the report said.
It was above average in all locations, including hospitals, care homes and private homes. Hospitals continue to account for the majority of people dying with the virus.
The 25 per cent of deaths caused by Covid-19 (shown graph right) is the highest proportion so far during the second wave, and it means that the total number of people to have died in that week is significantly higher than at the same time in previous years (graph left)
1.1million people in England have Covid, ONS figures reveal
One in 30 Londoners had Covid-19 last week, according to ‘frightening’ new estimates.
Roughly 1.1 million people in private households in England – the equivalent of around 2.06% of the population, or one in 50 people – had coronavirus between December 27 and January 2, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Meanwhile one in 30 people in private households in London – more than 290,000 people – are estimated to have had the virus in the same period, ONS figures show.
The data from the Covid-19 infection survey represents a rise from 800,900 people, or one in 70, who were estimated to have the virus in the period December 17 to 23. It does not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.
Statisticians cautioned against comparing the number of deaths recorded with previous weeks in December, or the same week in previous years, because of the Christmas bank holidays.
Death counts are usually abnormally low because there are two public holidays – Christmas Day and Boxing Day – and death certificates are not filed as reliably on bank holidays.
In 2020 the Christmas week included one bank holiday as Christmas Day fell on a Friday, before the weekend, and the second was pushed to the following week, delayed to the Monday after Boxing Day.
The West Midlands had the highest proportion of deaths above average, after recording 1,217 deaths compared to an expected 753 – 61.6 per cent above.
Wales had the second highest, registering 825 fatalities when figures suggest it should have seen 518 – 59.3 per cent above average.
And the East Midlands was the third, after announcing 1,097 deaths compared to an estimated 706 – 55.4 per cent above average.
The number of coronavirus cases in England, a measure for changes in deaths, was surging upwards in the run-up to Christmas.
This suggests deaths will also rise in response over the next few weeks, because it takes around three weeks for someone infected with the virus to develop symptoms serious enough to be hospitalised and then sadly succumb to the virus.
Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, a research fellow at the Imperial Wellcome Trust, said the figures revealed excess deaths were the ‘highest they have been during the second wave’.
But he added: ‘However, it should at this stage be interpreted with caution because there was just one bank holiday in week 52 (seven days to December 25) in 2020 compared to two bank holidays in that corresponding week in previous years.
‘A very interesting but potentially worrying statistic is that, unlike in previous weeks, excess deaths are higher than deaths involving Covid-19.
‘This is important as it may suggest an increase in excess deaths in that second group – indirect impacts of the pandemic upon health system pressures that impact care pathways for non-Covid-19 conditions.
‘As hospitalisations have increased substantially over the past weeks, and look set to continue, this could have a profoundly negative impact upon common causes of death such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and dementia in the short and longer term.’
Last week deaths were seven per cent higher than expected, according to an analysis by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, which used data from the ONS and its equivalents in Scotland (NRS) and Northern Ireland (NISRA).
ONS data showed there were 13,011 deaths in England and Wales during the week to December 18, a 12.7 per cent increase on the five-year average (11,548 deaths), and up 719 from the week before.
But the IFA, which has kept track of deaths throughout Britain’s Covid crisis, claims the gap is actually just 7 per cent higher than the figure for last winter.
Cobus Daneel, chair of the CMI Mortality Projections Committee said: ‘The CMI’s analysis of ONS data shows that there have been over 10,000 excess deaths in the second wave.
‘However, the corresponding figure for registered deaths with Covid mentioned on the death certificate is over 25,000.
‘Death rates from other causes have been significantly lower than is typical at this time of year.’