Coronavirus: registered deaths

Published 12/01/2021   |   Last Updated 13/01/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

Each week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales. This data provides provisional counts of the number of deaths registered in England and Wales, including deaths involving the coronavirus (COVID-19). To allow time for registration and processing, these figures are published 11 days after the week ends. So the figures published on 12 January 2021 show weekly deaths in 2020 up to the week ending 1 January 2021.

The ONS figures are based on the date the death was registered rather than the date the death occurred. There is usually a delay of at least five days between a death occurring and being registered.

Latest ONS data (week ending 1 January)

All registered deaths and COVID-19 deaths

Figures from the ONS show all registered deaths including people who died in the community as well as in hospital. This allows us to see how many more people have died from all causes than we would usually expect by looking at the 5 year average. Increases in deaths above the average for the last five years are often known as 'excess deaths'. The latest data show the number of registered deaths are above the five year average. ONS states that trends in this week’s release should be interpreted with caution:

A decrease between Weeks 51 and 52 is usually observed because of the impact of the Christmas bank holidays. One of the reasons that Week 52 of 2020 was above the five-year average is because it had one bank holiday compared with Week 52 having two bank holidays in four of the five years (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019) in the five-year average. Week 53, however, included both the Boxing Day and New Year’s Day Bank Holidays, which may account for the decrease in comparison with Week 52. We use the Week 52 five-year average to compare against Week 53 deaths as only one other year in the last five years had a Week 53. Like last week, the trends should therefore be interpreted with caution this week.

The data also show the number of COVID-19 deaths in Wales starting in the week ending 20 March 2020.

Weekly provisional deaths registered in Wales in 2020 compared to the average over the previous 5 years

Source: ONS, Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional

Place of COVID-19 deaths

ONS data is also published by local authority, health board and place of death which includes hospital (acute or community, not psychiatric), home, care home, hospice, other communal establishment and elsewhere.

From the week ending 20 March 2020 to the week ending 1 January 2021, 71.6% (3,700) of COVID-19 deaths occurred in hospitals, 22.2% (1,145) in care homes, 4.9% (251) at home and 1.4% (73) in other places.

COVID-19 deaths by local authority and place of death

The graph below shows the total number of COVID-19 deaths occurring in Wales from week ending 20 March 2020 to week ending 1 January 2021 but were registered up to 9 January 2021, by local authority of residence and place of death. This shows that Rhondda Cynon Taf has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths and Isle of Anglesey the lowest. In this week Cardiff (33), Rhondda Cynon Taf (33), Carmarthenshire (31), Swansea (28) and Bridgend (25) saw the highest number of deaths.

COVID-19 deaths by local authority of residence and place of death occurring from 20 March 2020 to 1 January 2021, registered up to 9 January 2021.

Source: ONS, Death registrations and occurrences by local authority and health board

Deaths involving COVID-19 – ONS interactive map

ONS has produced an interactive map which shows the number of deaths occurring in the period March to November 2020, where COVID-19 was mentioned as a cause on the death certificate. Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs) have been used as the geography as they have similar population sizes and remain stable over time. There are 410 MSOAs in Wales, each with a population of between 5,000 and 15,000.

Number of deaths involving COVID-19 in Middle Layer Super Output Areas, death occurring between March to November 2020, England and Wales.

Source: ONS, Deaths involving COVID-19 – interactive map

Why are the ONS figures different to the PHW figures?

ONS explain these figures differ to those published by Department of Health and Social Care in England (DHSC) and Public Health Wales (PHW):

These figures are different from the daily surveillance figures on COVID-19 deaths published by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on the GOV.UK website, for the UK as a whole and constituent countries. Figures in this report are derived from the formal process of death registration and may include cases where the doctor completing the death certificate diagnosed possible cases of COVID-19, for example, where this was based on relevant symptoms but no test for the virus was conducted.

PHW figures include reported deaths in a hospitalised patient or care home resident where COVID-19 has been confirmed with a positive laboratory test and the clinician suspects this was a causative factor in the death. PHW death figures are published by local health board but not by local authority or place of death.

If you are interested in reading more about PHW statistics see our blog Coronavirus: statistics.

Article by Helen Jones, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament

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