COVID-19: The latest picture as at 16th June 2020

In this week’s blog we explore the latest data on weekly deaths, which shows a slight increase on the previous week, in part due to a catch-up after the late May bank holiday. There are also some early signs that the rate of fall of COVID deaths may be slowing somewhat.

Weekly deaths increase slightly

The latest statistics from the ONS include detailed breakdowns of deaths registered in England & Wales up to 5th June. In particular, they identify deaths where there is any mention of COVID-19 on the death certificate. Combining this information with similar data from the corresponding statistical bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland, we can examine emerging patterns in the data. The latest data shows a slight increase in the weekly death registrations compared to the previous week. However this is not unexpected - the Monday Bank Holiday on 25th May will have reduced death registrations slightly in the previous week, so there is an element of “catch-up” in registrations in the latest week (as seen in the average line too, which also increases slightly). Despite the uptick in total deaths, it is reassuring to see a continued reduction in registered deaths mentioning COVID on the death certificate.

Weekly figures for Scotland use a different definition of weeks, running from Monday to Sunday rather than Saturday to Friday. The chart above is based on using the Scottish data for the week ending on the Sunday immediately after the date shown on the horizontal axis.

It is reassuring that these deaths remain close to average levels, although of course we remain cautious around the risk of a resurgence of the current wave / a ‘second wave’1, particularly in the context of the easing of some lockdown restrictions.

Are COVID-19 deaths levelling off? 

 Looking at deaths which mention COVID-19 on the death certificate, we can see that, although the downward trend has continued, the rate of decline appears to be slowing. While there may also be an element of ‘post bank holiday’ catch-up in the latest published data, it may also be an early indication that COVID deaths may be starting to plateau. 

Despite moves to relax lockdown restrictions, at various speeds in the different home nations, we continue to see new COVID-19 cases diagnosed every day. And tragically, some of these new cases will result in further deaths in the days and weeks ahead (although there are some promising signs of new treatments), so we are unfortunately likely to see COVID deaths occurring for some time to come. It will also be important to keep a close eye on the numbers of cases diagnosed each day, as they will provide an early warning of any imminent ‘second peak’. We will explore how case numbers compare to deaths in a future blog post. 

We estimate that the total death toll from COVID-19 in the UK, including both the direct and the indirect deaths (i.e. the unseasonably high excess weekly deaths shown by the red bars above), is currently around the 68,000 level. 

1A distinction is made by epidemiologists between a continuation of the current wave vs a second wave which would usually follow a period of absence of the virus and a secondary period of infections and deaths, possibly from a different strain.

“All of the team at Club Vita wish to extend our condolences to anyone who has personally been touched by bereavement in recent weeks. We know that these deaths leave behind people who are missing loved ones. Our thoughts are with you…”
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