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Covid-19: UK comes last in ‘key metric’ of excess deaths

At the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, the UK totalled the highest number of excess deaths among 11 developed countries.

Published: May 30, 2020, 10:38 am

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    Excess deaths are defined as those which happen outside of what is expected in normal circumstances. The figure is the difference in the number of inhabitants who have died in a given week compared with the average number of deaths that occurred in the same period in the previous five years. The data was compiled from mortality statistics examined by British daily the Guardian.

    In fact, excess deaths are internationally recognised as the best way to judge performance of any country in handling infectious diseases. Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer, called excess deaths “the key metric”.

    The UK beat Sweden, France, Germany and Spain according to data analysed by the Guardian. At its peak the UK Covid death toll was more than double the average per week, at 109 percent, compared with Spain’s peak in week 14 where the death toll was double the average at 100 percent.

    By week 20 of 2020 the UK death toll – of both Covid-related and non-Covid deaths – was 21 percent higher than the average: For the usual number of every five deaths, six people have died this year to date.

    In absolute number of excess deaths in the UK is the highest in Europe, and second only to the US in global terms, according to data collected by the Financial Times.

    On another measure – the percentage increase in deaths compared with normal levels – the UK also tops the charts behind Peru internationally.

    Even though countries like China, Brazil and Russia have suffered large death tolls, their mortality rates are far below the UK as the number of deaths is smaller compared with their much larger populations.

    Peru has 1,6 hospital beds per 1 000 people, according to the World Bank. The country also battled a dengue fever outbreak which coincided with the Corona crisis. In the UK, the number for hospital beds is 2,8 per 1 000, adding to the appalling NHS performance.

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