England and Wales have recorded 38,554 more deaths than usual between the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in March and 24 April, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.
Of those, only 71% were officially attributed to Covid-19 – leaving some 11,260 deaths unaccounted for.
Some of these “unexplained” deaths may be a direct result of the coronavirus while others may be due to limited access to healthcare during the pandemic.
The figures are based on weekly monitoring of deaths from all causes. We can compare this with the average number of deaths seen during comparable weeks over the last five years.
In the week to 24 April alone, a total of 21,997 people died in England and Wales – more than twice the average of 10,458 deaths seen during the same week in previous years. It brings the total number of excess deaths since March to nearly 40,000.
That implies that the “official” Covid-19 death totals are a significant underestimate of the true toll.
Government figures showed a total of 22,173 deaths in England and Wales up to 24 April. This number comes from the Department of Health & Social Care and, until recently, only included hospital patients that have tested positive for Covid-19.
Separate figures published by the ONS count all deaths in all settings where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. These showed 27,365 deaths up to 24 April.
Even those figures seem to be significantly understating the total number of deaths being caused by the virus, either directly or indirectly.
The chart below shows that the number of weekly deaths from all causes was generally in line with expectations before the start of the coronavirus outbreak in March.
The number of deaths recorded each week has more than doubled since then.
Today’s figures do however show the number of excess deaths, and the number of total deaths from all causes, both fell slightly in the week to 24 April compared to the previous week. That suggests the peak number of fatalities may have passed towards the end of last month.