The timing of Victory in Europe (VE) Day masked the true number of coronavirus deaths in the UK over week 19 of this year, the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) has warned.
The CMI's latest weekly mortality update, based on data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows 38% more deaths in England and Wales between 2 May and 8 May than during the same period last year.
This is down from the 58% increase recorded in week 18, and 116% rise for week 17. However, there were just 88 deaths registered on this year's VE Day bank holiday on Friday 8 May, compared to 2,950 seven days earlier.
If a public holiday falls on a Friday, then deaths cannot typically be registered until the following week, and the CMI said that the latest figures suggest that few register offices were open on VE Day.
Cobus Daneel, chair of the CMI Mortality Projections Committee, said: “The latest figures released by the ONS show a significant decline in ‘excess’ weekly deaths, although the fall in week 19 has been exaggerated by the timing of the VE Day bank holiday. Most excess deaths not reported in week 19 will be registered in week 20.”
Owned by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, the CMI has been publishing weekly UK mortality analysis through its mortality monitor during the coronavirus crisis.
The latest update suggests that there could have been 57,000 to 64,000 excess registered deaths in the UK between the start of the pandemic and 18 May 2020.
It shows that the cumulative mortality improvement in England & Wales for 2020 was –9.4% at 8 May 2020, compared to +0.1% at 20 March 2020 before coronavirus had a material impact.
More recent data issued by Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for later periods suggests that this will fall further over the coming weeks.
“Our calculations rely on data for registered deaths, and we are conscious that in recent weeks deaths may have been registered earlier or later than in previous years,” the CMI said. “Consequently, comparisons of mortality between 2020 and earlier years may not be on a like-for-like basis.”
Author: Chris Seekings
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