Coronavirus linked to one in 20 deaths in England and Wales, ONS data shows

One in 20 deaths in England and Wales is linked to coronavirus – up from one in 100 in a week, the latest figures show. 

The data, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), also reveals that the number of fatalities related to the virus by March 27 was more than 40 per cent higher than announced at that time. 

In total, 1,639 such deaths were recorded, compared with 964 disclosed by the Department of Health and social care at the time (see graph below).  

Not all deaths are registered quickly but, of those registered within the week, 4.8 per cent had Covid-10 mentioned on the death certificate.  

This compares with one per cent of deaths in the previous week, but such figures show the total of 539 deaths linked to coronavirus compares with 2,090 linked to flu, as illustrated below: 

Overall, total weekly death numbers are up by 1,011, with 11,141 in the week ending March 27, the data reveals. 

This is one of the best indicators of the true number of coronavirus deaths. However, the figures show the percentage of deaths mentioning Covid-19, influenza or pneumonia is 18.8 per cent – lower than the five-year average of 19.6 per cent for influenza or pneumonia deaths (see below). 

Overall, the figures show that 62 per cent of those who have died are male and 38 per cent female. Experts said there is increasing evidence that females have a stronger immune response to infections but added that it was also the case that male lifestyles tended to be less healthy, making men more vulnerable to the infection. 

Professor Philip Goulder, a professor of immunology at the University of Oxford, said the immune response in women “is typically more aggressive and effective” than in males. He said this is partly because females have two X chromosomes and a number of critical immune genes are located on the X chromosome.

“Apart from the immune sex differences that impact on mortality from infections such as coronavirus, there are important behavioural differences between the sexes  for example in smoking  which affect the level of pre-existing disease such as heart disease, chronic lung disease and cancer. These have a huge impact on the outcome from infections such as coronavirus,” he said.  

Dr James Gill, honorary clinical lecturer at Warwick Medical School, said that, while both explanations may play a part, individuals could act to reduce their risk from the virus. 

“Whilst we don’t have a definitive answer on why there is a difference between how men and women respond to a Covid-19 infection at the immunological level yet, currently it is a fair assumption that there will be a significant interplay between the biology and the environmental facts,” he said. 

“Ultimately, whether male or female it is not too late to initiate lifestyle factors such as stopping smoking or increasing intake of fruit and vegetables, which may increase your chances of successfully fighting a Covid-19 infection.” 

Just one per cent of deaths involved those below the age of 44, with 88 per cent involving those over the age of 65, as the graph below illustrates: 

Almost half of all deaths – 44 per cent – occurred in London, followed by the south-east and the West Midlands on 13 per cent each.

However, compared with the size of their populations, death rates were similar in London and the south-east, followed by the north-west, east, and West Midlands. Around one in 14 coronavirus-related deaths were recorded as occurring at home, in hospices or care homes. 

The ONS stressed that this is only preliminary analysis, and the figures are just for England and Wales covering one week of data.

NHS records now show 1,649 deaths by 27 March. This is because many of the deaths were reported belatedly by hospitals. 

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