The UK has the highest death rate from the coronavirus pandemic among the countries producing comparable data, based on figures for excessive mortality.
The UK has recorded 59,537 more deaths than usual since the week ending March 20, indicating that the virus directly or indirectly killed 891 people per million.
At this stage of the pandemic, this is a higher mortality rate than in any country for which high quality data exists. The absolute number of excess deaths in the UK is also the highest in Europe, and just behind the United States in global terms, according to data collected by the Financial Times.
The country does not fare better on another measure: the percentage increase in deaths from normal levels, where the United Kingdom is once again the most affected in Europe and behind only Peru at internationally.
The data were compiled from national statistical agencies of 19 countries for which there is sufficient information to make robust comparisons. Figures include all European countries hard hit by coronavirus. The comparison periods are those from which the death rates in each country have exceeded the five-year averages.
The FT made these comparisons for the first time because the level of excessive deaths in other hard-hit European countries, such as Italy and Spain, returned to near normal levels. This means that death rates in these countries are unlikely to exceed the UK unless they suffer from a second wave of infections.
Other countries like China, Brazil and Russia suffered many deaths during the pandemic. However, their mortality rates are much lower than in the UK as the number of deaths is lower compared to their much larger populations.
The timing of closings in relation to the spread of the virus has had a significant effect on the total level of excessive deaths, the data show.
Countries like Germany and Norway, which have imposed restrictions when the spread of the virus is limited, have recorded much lower additional death levels than those in the UK where the government waited longer before ordering a lock.
A British government spokesman said it was “wrong and premature to draw conclusions at this point” and that excessive deaths should be adjusted for age.
“We will of course learn from our response to this virus, but these must be drawn from accurate international analysis in the future,” added number 10.
David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor of public risk understanding at Cambridge University, said: “If we can believe the data from other countries, then the UK has hurt in terms of excessive deaths. The problems now relate to what will happen for the rest of the year and try to understand the processes that contribute to our large surplus. “
The FT analysis shows that the number of excessive deaths in the UK remains the highest, whether young people are excluded or that the analysis is limited to retirees.
Jonathan Ashworth, the fictitious secretary of occupational health, said that the government “had not overcome this crisis as well as other countries. We have been too slow in locking, out of the pace of testing and PPE, and too slow to protect our care homes, ”referring to the shortage of personal protective equipment for health and first aid workers line.
Unlike other hard-hit countries, the excess mortality rate has risen sharply in all regions of the United Kingdom, with London reporting by far the largest jump.
In contrast, in Italy, the epidemic was concentrated in the northern region of Lombardy and there were two hot spots in France: one around Paris and the other around the eastern city of Mulhouse, near the German borders. and Swiss.
Excessive deaths are internationally recognized as the best way to compare the performance of countries in the treatment of infectious diseases. Chris Whitty, the United Kingdom’s chief medical officer, called excessive death “a key metric”.
When Boris Johnson sought to defend his government from criticism of the rising death toll in the UK at the end of April, he said that the use of international comparisons, such as those of those who had died after being tested positive, was “troubled with difficulties”.
The British Prime Minister added: “The only real comparison will be possible at the end of the epidemic when you consider the total number of excess deaths.”
The excess mortality is calculated by counting all the people who died in a country and subtracting the average number of people who died in the same period over the past five years.
It therefore identifies the number of people who died directly from Covid-19 or indirectly, for example if they were unable or did not want to seek treatment in hospital, and does not reflect the different regimes for screening for the virus. in different countries.
Looking at the cause of high death rates in some countries, the strongest link at this point appears to be between the date a country was locked out and the likely number of infections that already existed when restrictions were applied.
Although the exact number of infections can only be estimated at the time of closure, the statistical relationship between this and excessive deaths is strong.
Natalie Dean, assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida, said some countries like Italy were “unlucky” because they were caught by the virus from the start. This has given other countries, like the UK, time to learn from, she added.
“I was very surprised by the late response in the UK. Given what we were observing in Italy at the time and that the UK was on exactly the same trajectory, had the same very steep rise, I was surprised to see a discussion on expectation. We had to immediately stop what was going on, ”she said.
“For London, in particular, it was clear that there was a large increase, so it is reasonable to think that previous intervention would have saved lives. “
Along with the United States and Peru, the United Kingdom still has a large number of excess deaths, although the toll has dropped sharply since the weekly peak of 12,000 in mid-April.
Peru has seen a sharp increase in deaths this year, in part because it has had to fight other diseases, in addition to the coronavirus, with its overburdened health system.
Peru has 1.6 hospital beds per 1,000 people, 40% less than the world average according to the World Bank, and authorities have also faced a dengue epidemic at the same time. In the United Kingdom, the number of hospital beds is 2.8 per 1,000.