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expert reaction to latest ONS stats on deaths in England and Wales up to week ending 4 September 2020

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have released the latest data for deaths in England and Wales, including deaths from COVID-19 in all settings.


Prof Sheila Bird, Formerly Programme Leader, MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, said:

“The main points cited in this week’s report on COVID-mention deaths do not mention what, to me, is the most epidemiologically important aspect of this week’s report: the COVID-mention death on 30 January 2020 of a male aged 84 years whose death was referred to the coroner and subject to post-mortem by histopathologist Dr Anna Rycroft – as revealed on 8 September by The SUN (

“On 27th August 2020, the Coroner Bina Patel wrote to the family to inform them that his investigation into the death had concluded because the death was due to natural causes (COVID-19).  It was left up to the family to register the death rather than information being immediately registered by the coroner with the Office for National Statistics as might be expected if the death had been subject to inquest.

“The 30-week delay between death-date (30 January 2020) and investigation-end-date (27 August 2020) for this, the earliest COVID-mention death in UK to date, is a desperate indictment.  Moreover, although the original autopsy may have been timely (in February), there could have been a need to update the original autopsy report and findings in the light of the pandemic.

“This epidemiologically-important, and hugely-sad death for a grieving family, signals that there may be a need to review other autopsy findings from December 2019 to February 2020, especially when astute physicians, as in this case, were puzzled by their patient’s death.

“In general, as vCJD diagnoses in the past also illustrated, physicians’ art of medicine should never be under-estimated.”


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


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