Covid-19 in the UK in June 2020

Today is a Tuesday, which means that The Office for National Statistics have just released their latest weekly “death certificate” data, which brings us up to May 22nd. The “main points” are:

  • A total of 43,837 deaths involving COVID-19 were registered in England and Wales between 28 December 2019 and 22 May 2020 (year to date).
  • In England, including deaths that occurred up to 22 May but were registered up to 30 May, of those we have processed so far, the number involving COVID-19 was 42,210; the comparative number of death notifications reported by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on GOV.UK was 32,666 and NHS England numbers, which are deaths in hospitals only, showed 25,875 deaths.
  • In Wales, including deaths that occurred up to 22 May but were registered up to 30 May, of those we have processed so far, the number involving COVID-19 was 2,122; the comparative number of death notifications reported by the DHSC on GOV.UK was 1,260 and Public Health Wales (PHW) numbers, which come from the same source as the DHSC figures but are continuously updated, showed 1,275 deaths.
  • In England, the number of deaths involving COVID-19 in care homes that were registered by 22 May was 12,142, while in Wales the number of deaths was 591.
  • The Care Quality Commission (CQC) provides numbers of deaths involving COVID-19 in care homes in England that were notified between 10 April and 29 May, which showed 11,186 deaths, of which 531 occurred in the week up to 29 May.
  • The Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) provides the number of deaths involving COVID-19 in care homes in Wales that occurred between 17 March and 29 May, which showed 462 deaths, of which 35 occurred in the week up to 29 May.

Here’s the “graphic” representation of those numbers:

Here is an alternative view on weekly “death occurrences in England and Wales” over recent years from EuroMOMO:

Publishing the number of death occurrences is outside EuroMOMO’s terms of reference, but their “Z-scores” provide a graphic illustration of how badly England in particular has been doing over the course of the 2020 Covid-19 epidemic.

[Edit – June 9th]

The latest weekly data from the ONS has been released:

  • The number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 29 May 2020 (Week 22) was 9,824; this was 2,464 fewer than in Week 21 but 20.2% (1,653 deaths) higher than the five-year average.
  • Of the deaths registered in Week 22, 1,822 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, the lowest number of deaths involving COVID-19 in the last eight weeks; this accounts for 18.5% of all deaths and is 767 deaths fewer than in Week 21.
  • People aged 90 years and over continued to have the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Week 22.
  • In Week 22, the proportion of deaths occurring in care homes decreased to 25.5% while deaths involving COVID-19 as a percentage of all deaths in care homes decreased to 28.2%.
  • In Week 22, the number of deaths in care homes was 819 higher than the five-year average, while in hospitals the number of deaths was 30 fewer than the five-year average; the total number of excess deaths involving COVID-19 continued to decrease.

Here’s a graphic representation of the overall “excess death” numbers:

By way of explanation:

The number of deaths was around or below the five-year average up to Week 12. The number of deaths increased between Weeks 13 and 16 before decreasing between Weeks 17 and 22, with the exception of Week 20 where the deaths increased.

The number of death registrations in Week 20 was impacted by the early May Bank Holiday, which took place on Friday 8 May 2020 (in Week 19). The number of deaths registered on the early May Bank Holiday fell to 88 deaths compared with 2,950 deaths registered on the previous Friday (Friday 1 May 2020). Trends seen in Week 19 and Week 20 should therefore be interpreted with caution, as deaths not registered on the early May Bank Holiday were likely registered in the following week (Week 20). Week 22 also included the late May Bank Holiday but as this was on a Monday, we have seen less of an effect on death registrations.

The number of death registrations involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) decreased from 2,589 in Week 21 to 1,822 in Week 22. Of all deaths registered in Week 22, 18.5% mentioned COVID-19; this is down from 21.1% in Week 21.

Similar patterns can be seen for England and Wales separately, with the number of deaths in England decreasing from 11,586 in Week 21 to 9,228 in Week 22, which was 1,621 deaths higher than the Week 22 average. Of the Week 22 deaths, 18.6% (1,715 deaths) involved COVID-19 in England.

In Wales, the number of deaths decreased from 692 deaths in Week 21 to 587 deaths in Week 22, 41 deaths higher than the Week 22 average. Of these Week 22 deaths, 17.9% (105 deaths) involved COVID-19 in Wales.

[Edit – June 10th]

Today’s Downing Street Briefing was somewhat unusual. Boris Johnson was master of ceremonies, and what’s more he was accompanied by some scientists! Boris began by referring to “the progress we as a country have made against our 5 tests for adjusting lockdown”

Instead of listening to what was said, let’s take a look at some of the data that was referred to shall we?

The overall aim is evidently to “reduce the rate of infection to manageable levels” whilst “not risk[ing] a second peak of infections that overwhelms the NHS”. Boris hopes that the latest lockdown “adjustments” will be “underpinned by NHS Test and Trace”, so let’s also see how that’s coming along shall we? As luck would have it the Independent Sage committee also reported this yesterday:


Sir David King convenes Alt SAGE Covid-19 committee

Idly perusing the online version of The Sunday Times in anticipation of more BoJo bashing I instead stumbled across some discreet Dom bashing from an illustrious source. According to an article by Caroline Wheeler, Deputy Political Editor of the Sunday Times:

The government’s former chief scientific adviser is convening a rival panel of experts to offer advice on easing the lockdown.

Tomorrow Sir David King will chair the first meeting of the group, which is designed to act as an independent alternative to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

The move comes after weeks of unease about the transparency of SAGE decision-making. It has emerged that 16 of the 23 known members of the committee, which meets in secret, are employed by the government.

The independent group will broadcast live on YouTube and take evidence from global experts. It aims to present the government with “robust, unbiased advice” and some evidence-based policies to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The committee will formally submit its recommendations to the health and social care select committee, heaping pressure on Boris Johnson as he draws up the government’s lockdown exit strategy.

The whole idea sounds crazy, until you consider how the official Covid-19 daily briefings are already spinning like crazy!

Sir David also has his very own Twitter feed, via which he announced:

Getting back to Caroline, she added:

Speaking before tomorrow’s meeting, which will be followed by a news conference, King said: “Science is fundamentally a system based on peer review. When it comes to scientific advice of any kind, transparency is essential.”

He added: “I am not at all critical of the scientists who are putting advice before the government . . . but because there is no transparency the government can say they are following scientific advice but we don’t know that they are.”

Dominic Cummings, a top aide to the prime minister, has attended the secret meetings of SAGE.

“Cummings is an adviser to the prime minister. And the chief scientific adviser is an adviser to the prime minister. So there are two voices from the scientific advisory group and I think that’s very dangerous because only one of the two understands the science,” King said.

The committee has a draft agenda and is seeking to end the pandemic “with the fewest casualties possible”.

Currently the YouTube URL at which tomorrow’s Alt SAGE meeting will be broadcast has not been revealed, so…..

[Edit – May 12th]

The Independent SAGE committee have just published their recommendations. We “retweeted” them forthwith!

To summarise the committee’s recommendations to Her Majesty’s Government concerning “Transitioning from lockdowns and closures”:

Four key components to managing transitions and modulating restrictive measures

  1. Public health and epidemiological considerations must drive the decision-making process.
  2. Available capacity for dual-track health system management to reinstate regular health services, while at the same time continuing to address COVID-19.
  3. Leveraging social and behavioural perspectives as tools for responsive engagement with populations.
  4. Social and economic support to mitigate the devastating effects of COVID-19 on individuals, families and communities.

Six conditions should be used as the basis to implement/adapt transitioning of measures

  1. Evidence shows that COVID-19 transmission is controlled.
  2. Sufficient public health and health system capacities are in place to identify, isolate, test and treat all cases, and to trace and quarantine contacts.
  3. Outbreak risks are minimized in high vulnerability settings, such as long-term care facilities (i.e. nursing homes, rehabilitative and mental health centres) and congregate settings.
  4. Preventive measures are established in workplaces, with physical distancing, handwashing facilities and respiratory etiquette in place, and potentially thermal monitoring.
  5. Manage the risk of exporting and importing cases from communities with high-risks of transmission.
  6. Communities have a voice, are informed, engaged and participatory in the transition.

Four cross-cutting mechanisms that are essential enablers throughout the transition process

  1. Governance of health systems.
  2. Data analytics to inform decisions.
  3. Digital technologies to support public health measures.
  4. Responsive communication with populations.

We “tweeted” a question to the powers that be:

We haven’t received an answer as yet.

Watch this space!