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expert reaction to ONS stats on deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional: week ending 5 February 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 5 February 2021.


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

“It’s excellent to see that the number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending on 5 February was clearly lower than the previous week – about 7% down. That’s not surprising, given the falls that we’ve seen in the daily numbers of deaths on the dashboard at, and given that the numbers of registered deaths had already started to fall in the bulletin from ONS for the previous week. But the latest week’s fall is considerably larger than the decrease the week before. Things are definitely moving in the right direction. Excess deaths – the difference between the number of deaths in the latest week and the average number for the same week in the five years from 2015-2019, are down too.

“What’s more, deaths from all causes that week were lower in all but one English region than the week before, and also in Wales. (The English regional exception was the East Midlands, but there the number increased by only 3, too small to be a matter of concern.)

“But there’s still a very long way to go. The pattern of deaths is a very great deal different from what we’d have seen before the COVID-19 pandemic. In that latest week, the number of deaths from all causes in England and Wales was 41% higher than the five-year average number for the same week. That’s five and a half thousand more deaths in a week than average for this time of year – fewer than a week before, but still a distressingly large number. There were 7,300 deaths registered that week where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate – that’s more than a thousand fewer than the previous week, but it’s still over two in five of all deaths that week. For about 90% of those deaths, COVID-19 was listed as the underlying cause of death on the certificate. That’s 6,500 deaths clearly caused by COVID-19 registered in a week. To put that in perspective, the five-year average number of deaths, from all causes, in that week is just over 12,000. And in every English region and in Wales, the number of deaths from all causes was quite a way above the five-year average – hugely so in London where the number was 70% higher than average.”



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.”

None others received.

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