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expert reaction to new ONS stats on deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional: 8 October 2021

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have released provisional counts of the number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 8 October 2021.


Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, The Open University, said:

“Terrible cliché, but there’s good news and bad news in this week’s ONS release of provisional numbers of deaths registered in England and Wales. As usual, it concentrates on England and Wales but also includes some figures for the whole UK, and the latest bulletin takes the data up to the week 2-8 October.

“The good, or at least encouraging, news is that the number of death registrations across the UK where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate fell in the latest week, compared to the week before, by 16%, from 974 to 820. That’s still a lot higher than the weekly numbers from June, which totalled around 100 a week, so the position isn’t wonderful. But the trend is in the right direction, as it was the previous week. In three of the UK countries, and in all nine of the English regions, numbers also fell in the latest week compared to the week before. The exception is Wales, where the number of Covid-related deaths in the latest week rose by about a quarter compared to the week before, from 64 to 81. The change in one week in a country as small as Wales, where we’re only seeing around 10 daily deaths involving Covid-19, is not on its own too concerning, because you’d expect quite a lot of variability from week to week just because of the workings of chance on when people sadly die, and on how long it takes to register their deaths. But back in August we were seeing only around 20 Covid-related death registrations in Wales, so the levels in September and early October of between 60 and 90 a week are concerning.

“The bad, or at least somewhat concerning, news is that death registrations from all causes are again running above the five-year average for 2015-2019. For the whole UK, there were almost 1,600 more deaths in the week 2-8 October than the five-year average, so the number is about 13% above average. Only about half of that number of excess deaths is accounted for by deaths involving Covid-19. For England and Wales, where the ONS bulletin gives more detail, the total number of death registrations from all causes in the latest week was higher than the previous week (though only by about 3%), and the number of excess death registrations was also a little higher than the week before, after falling for two weeks before that. The number of all-cause death registrations in England and Wales in the most recent week, 10,807, is also higher than the number in the corresponding week last year, by 862 deaths. In England and Wales, there have been excess deaths compared to the five-year average for 14 straight weeks now, and the excess number has been consistently quite a lot larger than the numbers of registered deaths involving Covid-19. We still don’t have comprehensive data on what is causing these excess deaths.”



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



Declared interests

Prof Kevin McConway: “I am a Trustee of the SMC and a member of its Advisory Committee.  I am also a member of the Public Data Advisory Group, which provides expert advice to the Cabinet Office on aspects of public understanding of data during the pandemic.  My quote above is in my capacity as an independent professional statistician.”

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