One way to assess whether a country is facing a wave of pandemic mortality is to look at the number of people who have died and compare it to the historical average.
If the weekly number of deaths is higher than the historical average, it means a period of “excessive death”.
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Such measurements are not definitive – there are many different ways to measure these things, each with their own advantages and disadvantages – but when it comes to COVID-19, this is one of the statistics that seems to hold up better than d ‘other.
And the good news is that after a long period of excess death week after week, the number of people dying in the UK in the week to March 12 has fallen below the historic average.
The second wave, at least measured in terms of excess mortality, is now over.
Yet this good news is of course tinged with sadness. Now that deaths are down to typical levels for this time of year, we can reflect on the number of people who have lost their lives as a direct and indirect result of this pandemic.
When you add up those extra Wave 1 and Wave 2 deaths and subtract the lower than average death numbers in between, you get a grand total of just over 123,000 across the UK. .
That’s a depressing number and in some ways it underestimates the impact of COVID-19[feminine[feminine, because there are other statistics, based on the number of deaths where the virus was mentioned on the certificate, which now put the total at just under 150,000.
Why the difference? Mainly because deaths from other causes, including influenza and non-COVID, have been lower during this period than in previous years.
One interpretation is that some of those who died from the coronavirus might otherwise have died in the same timeframe from something else. But that’s hardly any consolation.
How does the UK death toll compare to other countries? The question is worth asking because for a long time it has been argued that the UK faces the worst death toll in the world, or perhaps the developed world. But over time and as more and more numbers have come in, other countries have unfortunately experienced worse mortality outcomes.
It all depends on the measure you are looking at.
If you look at these official COVID death figures, those reported daily by the government, the UK has the sixth highest death toll in the world, as a share of population.
Only a few Eastern European countries and Belgium suffered more losses.
However, this metric may overstate the UK’s headline somewhat as there are big question marks over the data in some countries, especially emerging and developing countries.
So if you look at excess deaths instead, the UK has the 16th highest death rate in the world, a little more than Slovenia but a little less than the Czech Republic.
However, it is important to note a few points when making such comparisons. The first is that while the UK may not be in the top 10, it still faces many more deaths than many other countries of comparable size and development.
Second, this story is not over yet.
While deaths have fallen below average levels in the UK, they are increasing elsewhere in the world. Brazil faces a significant increase in the number of deaths, while COVID cases increase in many parts of Europe.
Eastern Europe, which managed to avoid much of the first wave last spring, suffered more than most parts of the world from waves of infection during fall, winter and spring. .
And while many hope the relative strength of the UK’s vaccination program will prevent a third wave, policymakers remain concerned about the risks posed by infections imported from elsewhere in the world.
It is therefore with an understandable mixture of emotions that we must mark this moment. A year after the lockdown began, but the second wave of excessive deaths is now over.
Lockdown: One Year On is a special program marking the anniversary of the first nationwide lockdown on Sky News at 7 p.m. tonight.