What do today’s statistics about coronavirus-related deaths tell us?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published its latest weekly analysis of deaths registered in England and Wales.

– What do today’s figures tell us about the number of coronavirus-related deaths so far?

They show that there were 6,235 deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales up to April 3, based on deaths registered up to April 11.

– Who is counted in these figures?

Anybody whose death certificate mentions Covid-19, including suspected Covid-19, who died in England and Wales – either in hospital or in the wider community.

– Does this figure include care homes?

Yes it does, along with hospices, private homes and all other locations as well as hospitals.

– How does this figure compare with others that have already been published?

For deaths that occurred up to April 3, the comparative number of death notifications in England and Wales reported by the Department of Health on the gov.uk website was 4,093. This is 2,142 below the ONS total.

– Why is there such a big difference between these numbers?

Because the numbers are counted and reported differently. The Department of Health counts deaths where a person has been tested positive for coronavirus, and for England this is in hospitals only. Its figures are based on the date a death is known (in other words, when the death is reported) rather than when the death actually occurred. The figures do not include all deaths involving Covid-19, such as those outside hospitals in England, or where no test result was available.

The ONS counts deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases, regardless of location. These take longer to prepare, because they have to be certified by a doctor, registered and processed, meaning it takes longer for these numbers to be published.

– So although there is a time lag with the ONS figures, they are more complete than those from the Department of Health?

Yes – the ONS says their figures are “the most accurate and complete information” available.

– What about the figures that are published every day by NHS England?

These show the number of deaths in hospitals in England on the date the death occurred, so are a good measure of the day-to-day change in the volume of deaths.

HEALTH Coronavirus Deaths
HEALTH Coronavirus Deaths

There were 5,186 of these deaths by April 3, 793 below the equivalent ONS figure of 5,979.

The reason the NHS England figure is lower than the ONS figure is because NHS England counts only deaths in hospitals, while the ONS counts deaths in hospitals and the wider community.

By contrast, the Department of Health figure for England-only deaths by April 3 was 3,939.

The reason the NHS England figure is higher than the Department of Health figure is because NHS England publishes its numbers by the date the death occurred, not when it was reported, and it can take several days or even weeks for the occurrence of a Covid-19 death to be confirmed – meaning deaths that took place a while ago are only now being added to these figures.