COVID-19-related deaths in England and Wales fell sharply again in the seventh week of 2021, particularly among older groups, suggesting that the ongoing vaccine rollout is working well.
That is according to the latest update from the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI), which shows that the number of COVID-19 deaths fell from 5,691 in week six to 4,079 in week seven.
Based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, the update also shows that overall mortality was above 2019 levels by 13% in week seven, which is down from the 27% figure in week six, and 47% for the previous seven days.
Despite this, the CMI estimates that there have been at least 109,900 more deaths than would normally be expected in the UK since the start of the pandemic, of which 49,200 have occurred in the second wave.
“The latest data shows that deaths have continued to fall, from around 50% more than expected at the start of this year to 13% more than expected in week seven,” said Cobus Daneel, chair of the CMI's Mortality Projections Committee.
“Excess deaths have fallen fastest for the oldest age group. This is consistent with the impact that we would expect to see from the coronavirus vaccination programme, as older age groups received their vaccine earlier.”
Owned by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, the CMI has been publishing analysis of the UK's mortality rate during the coronavirus crisis through its mortality monitor.
It treats deaths during the pandemic as those recorded from 29 February 2020, while those in the second wave are registrations since 12 September 2020.
The latest update comes after professional services firm Aon last week cautioned against overstating the negative impact of the pandemic and its aftermath on the longevity assumptions of UK pension schemes.
A recent Aon poll of insurers and reinsurers found that 40% thought the longevity outlook from mid-2021 onwards was broadly the same as before the pandemic, with 30% thinking it was slightly worse, and 30% thinking it was better.
Tim Gordon, head of demographic horizons in Aon’s Risk Settlement Group, said that the findings are consistent with opinions across the industry, and said that some factors might have actually been positive for longevity during the pandemic.
“These include bearing down on the thousands of winter flu deaths we saw pre-pandemic – although flu could bounce back with a vengeance in the short term – the improvement of UK systems to deal with future pandemics, and accelerated health benefits from wider application of mRNA vaccines.
He continued: “Harsh as it may sound, we may also have a surviving population that is potentially more robust in the short term.
“On top of this, high vaccine efficacy and the UK’s speedy vaccine rollout and investment in future vaccine production suggest that the danger of seeing some of the more extreme COVID-19 scenarios has receded.
“Simply put, it is not necessarily the case that the outlook for future longevity has worsened as a result of the pandemic.”
The CMI intends to publish its next mortality monitor for week eight on Tuesday 9 March 2021.
Image credit: iStock
Author: Chris Seekings