Weekly Covid deaths in England and Wales fall for third week in a row

Britain’s Covid cases drop by a QUARTER in a week while deaths fall by almost 40% and top expert says mortality levels could dip BELOW normal levels by Easter

  • Department of Health bosses today recorded another 6,391 infections and 343 fatalities due to Covid
  • Sir David Spiegelhalter said deaths from all causes could drop below normal levels by Easter
  • Office for National Statistics today showed Covid deaths fell by 28 per cent in the third week of February  

Britain’s daily coronavirus cases and deaths have fallen once again, after another 6,391 infections and 343 fatalities were today added to the official tally.

Department of Health data showed cases dropped by a quarter week-on-week while deaths plunged by 37 per cent – in a firm sign the second wave is still in retreat. 

It comes after one of the country’s most prominent analysts claimed the number of deaths from all causes – including the virus – could fall to normal levels by Easter.

Sir David Spiegelhalter made the comments after separate figures showed Covid fatalities dipped by more than a quarter in the third week of February. They are already less than half those recorded in the darkest days of January.

‘Big deficit in deaths not involving Covid,’ the Cambridge University statistician said. ‘Will we get to “no excess deaths” by Easter? Looks likely.’ 

Excess deaths are when the number of deaths registered by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are above the five-year average, which estimates the number of fatalities expected during that period of time.

The number of deaths recorded from all causes fluctuates throughout the year, but normally surges in winter because of the influenza virus and colder conditions. 

Separate data from the Office for National statistics showed Covid deaths fell 28 per cent in the week to February 19 compared to the previous week after 4,079 were recorded, as the second wave continues to drop

Covid deaths fell for the third week in a row this week, after they dropped by 28 per cent when 4,079 were registered by the Office for National Statistics. This was less than half the peak in the darkest days of January

The above map shows England broken down into districts defined as Middle-layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs) by statisticians. The dark green areas are where there are fewer than three cases, and possibly none at all

SEARCH FOR MISSING BRAZIL VARIANT CASE NARROWS TO 379 HOUSEHOLDS IN THE SOUTH EAST

England’s missing case of the Brazilian coronavirus variant is someone from one of 379 households in the South East who took a home swab test in mid-February, Matt Hancock confirmed today.

The Health Secretary said the Department of Health is getting closer to finding the mystery person who tested positive but didn’t give their contact details.

They are one of six people who have tested positive for the troublesome Brazilian P1 variant, with two others near Bristol and three in Scotland.

Exactly where in the South East the person took the test is not yet known – officials have enlisted the help of Royal Mail to find them. Mr Hancock said local health chiefs were tracking down each household to pinpoint the missing patient.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng today confirmed the person is yet to be found as he said ‘we are still trying to work out exactly what has happened to that potential carrier’.

The strain, first discovered in the Brazilian city of Manaus, has spooked experts and ministers because it has mutations which are thought to increase the risk of it re-infecting people who have previously had Covid or to lessen the impact of vaccines.

Mr HancOck provided an update in the House of Commons today, after the Prime Minister’s office said earlier in the day that there was nothing to add.

He said: ‘We’ve identified the batch of home test kits in question.

‘Our search has narrowed from the whole country down to 379 households in the South East of England and we’re contacting each one.

‘We’re grateful that a number of potential cases have come forward following the call that we put out over the weekend and I’d like to thank colleagues from across the House who helped us to get the message out there.’

In other coronavirus developments:

  • Sweden is heading for a third wave and will need tighter restrictions because of rising infections, health chief Anders Tegnell warns; 
  • Shopkeepers say they are being forced to move out of Shakespeare’s hometown Stratford after the council spent £200,000 on Covid safety barriers that make parking ‘impossible’;
  • Vaccinated Britons could be allowed to jump Greek border check queues ahead of holidaymakers taking airport Covid tests this summer;
  • Search for England’s missing Brazil variant case has narrowed to 379 households in the South East, Health Secretary Matt Hancock reveals;
  • UK must ‘move away from an obsession with variants’, says Oxford vaccine chief;
  • Austria and Denmark break ranks with EU to produce vaccines in Israel amid Brussels’ shambolic rollout. 

As many as 18 local authorities in England have an infection rate below 49 cases per 100,000 residents – the lowest level in the country – and 11 of them are in London.

Across England they were Cornwall, Devon, Bath and North Somerset, Gloucestershire, the Isle of Wight and East Sussex.

And in the capital the boroughs of Enfield, Kingston-upon-Thames, Bromley, Lewisham, Southwark, Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Camden, Islington and Enfield also had the low infection rate.

Falling Covid infections suggest there will be fewer deaths from the virus, because there are less people catching the virus and sadly succumbing to the disease.

There are also early signs that the mass vaccine rollout is curbing its spread, after a report showed today that 90 per cent of over-85s – who are most at risk of death if they catch the virus – had antibodies against Covid.

Sir Spiegelhalter told the BBC’s World at One that Covid deaths are now halving every week among over-65s, the vaccinated age group.

‘We all hoped that something like this would happen,’ he said, ‘but frankly I think it’s better than anyone had expected.’

He added that the ONS figures showed deaths not linked to the virus are running at ‘very low levels’ and below average for what would be expected at this time of year.

‘I think almost certainly by the end of this month our actual overall death rate (fatalities from all causes including the virus) will be less than the average of the last five years.’

Explaining why non-Covid deaths may be so low, he said: ‘The big difference this year is that there’s no flu. Normally up to 25,000 people might die of flu in the winter, but it’s just not happening this year.

‘What we’ve actually seen is record levels of a lack of flu, and this was in a sense entirely predictable. It’s what happened in the Southern hemisphere countries over their winter, our summer, and is a direct effect of the measures we’re taking against coronavirus.

‘But there is another cause, which is that we did have 60,000 excess deaths back in the spring, in many old and vulnerable people and many of those would have survived until now.

‘And so the lack of deaths we’re seeing, some of them are because they’ve already died early.’

More than eight million people in England live in areas where coronavirus may have disappeared, official figures revealed today.

Department of Health data showed 1,065 out of 6,792 districts — 15 per cent — recorded ‘fewer than three cases’ in the week to February 24, and may even have had none at all. Numbers are suppressed when they fall this low because health chiefs fear infected residents could be identified and shamed. 

The vast majority of Cornwall and Devon recorded fewer than three coronavirus cases. But areas with tiny, or non-existent, outbreaks were scattered across the country, including in parts of London.

The data was recorded by Middle-layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs).

These are roughly the same as postcode areas, although some have amalgamated several of them. Each MSOA is home to around 8,000 people, on average. 

Office for National Statistics (ONS) population estimates suggest there were 8.05million people living in the 1,065 districts with fewer than three cases during the week ending February 24.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) weekly report showed there were 4,079 fatalities linked to the virus in England and Wales over the seven days to February 19, marking a 28 per cent drop from the previous week. This was also less than half the number of victims recorded during the darkest weeks of January.

Every region in England also registered a dip in the number of people succumbing to the infection compared to the previous week, with the North East and South West seeing the fewest fatalities.

And deaths linked to the virus in care home residents fell below 1,000 for the first time this year, with just 969 in the most recent seven days. 

But, despite the promising statistics, fatalities linked to Covid still accounted for almost a third of all fatalities and had not dipped below the levels at the start of January, when fatalities first spiralled out of control. And deaths from all causes remained above the five-year average by around 20 per cent.

ONS death figures lag behind the daily tallies, which began falling at the end of January. Statisticians analyse the death certificates to identify exactly how many Covid was to blame for. There is a delay of about three weeks between someone getting infected with the virus and succumbing to the disease, meaning it takes time for a dip in cases to show up in death figures. 

Covid deaths accounted for 30 per cent of all fatalities recorded (13,809) in the most recent week. This was a dip from the previous week, and at the same levels as the week ending December 25 when fatalities began to spiral out of control. 

Covid deaths registered in England fell in all regions, but stayed above the five-year average.

The North East had the fewest fatalities from the virus (165), followed by the South West (268) and Yorkshire and the Humber (320).

The virus failed to spread rapidly through these areas before lockdown restrictions were imposed at the start of the year, which may have led to a lower death toll.

The highest number of deaths due to the virus was in the South East (636), but this was 34 per cent below the number recorded the week before (974).

The East of England had the second highest toll (566) and the North West had the third highest (563).  

It can take at least two weeks for someone who has caught the virus to develop symptoms serious enough to become hospitalised, and then another week or two to die from the disease. 

Deaths from all-causes remained above the five-year average in all regions, however, showing that the virus was still having a impact.

It was furthest above the levels in the West Midlands (34 per cent or 390 excess deaths), followed by the East of England (26.6 per cent or 332 excess deaths) and the East Midlands (26.3 per cent or 259 excess deaths).

In Wales there were 179 Covid deaths recorded, which was a 17 per cent drop from the previous week when there were 216. But fatalities overall remained nine per cent above the five year average (65 extra deaths).

Deaths in care home residents were measured across all settings – including hospitals and the homes themselves.

Of the excess deaths registered, the ONS said the largest proportion were in private homes (1,148 or 43.1 per cent above average) followed by hospitals (1,012 or 18.3 per cent above average).

It comes as Department of Health figures reveal the second wave continues to retreat across the country, with daily cases figures more than halving yesterday compared to the same time last week.

There is a lag of at least two weeks between cases and deaths figures, because of the time taken for someone who has caught the virus to succumb to the disease. 

The majority of deaths linked to the virus have been in those more than 75 years old. The vaccine rollout has seen these groups inoculated first to protect them from the disease

The above shows Covid deaths as a proportion of all deaths. They dropped to 30 per cent of the total this week, but this was as high as in late December as fatalities first began to spiral out of control

The majority of deaths recorded in the most recent week were in hospitals, followed by care homes and private homes

The number of deaths involving Covid was 18 per cent above those involving influenza and pneumonia in the most recent week, ONS data showed

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