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Coronavirus: Deaths at lowest level since March

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The number of people dying each week linked to coronavirus has dropped to its lowest levels in the UK since March, figures show.

The review of death certificates by national statisticians showed 2,872 cases where the virus was mentioned in the week ending 22 May.

Overall there were 13,800 deaths in that week – 2,500 more than normal at this time of the year.

At the peak of the pandemic double the number were dying than expected.

Overall, there have been 190,000 deaths during the pandemic – nearly 62,000 above what would be expected.

This is known as the excess death rate and is said to be the best guide to the impact of the virus as it takes into account deaths linked to infections and indirect deaths that maybe related to the lockdown from factors such as lack of access to care for other conditions and mental health problems.

Some 48,000 of the deaths have been attributed to coronavirus.

Nick Stripe, of the Office for National Statistics, which compiles the data for England and Wales, said despite the number of overall deaths falling, we were effectively seeing the same number of deaths we would expect to see in winter.

He also said there were considerable regional variations with the north east currently seeing the highest rates of excess deaths.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive at the Health Foundation think tank, said the reduction in deaths was positive, but the figures were still a “sobering reminder” of the impact the virus has had.

“The UK is now among the worst hit countries in terms of excess mortality and we will need to be forensic in searching for the reasons we have been so badly affected.

“This data underlines just how dangerous a threat the virus remains unless it is fully contained and further outbreaks can be stopped. Having a fully functioning test and trace system will be critical, as will the willingness and ability of the public to maintain recommended levels of social distancing.

“Without these, there are real risks of more avoidable deaths.”

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