UK Covid summer deaths double in number on previous year

Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants thought to be behind increased fatalities

A pedestrian walks past the National Covid Memorial Wall in London, which sadly had many new additions this summer. EPA
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The number of Covid fatalities in the UK this summer were double the number of those last summer, data from the UK's Office for National Statistics suggest.

While the overall death toll for the year remains significantly lower than the equivalent period in 2021, the ascendance of two immunity-evading Omicron subvariants in June ensured the summer months told a markedly different story.

Between June 8 and August 12, more than 5,700 Covid deaths were registered in the UK — 95 per cent higher than the 2,936 that were registered in the equivalent period last year.

The Omicron BA.4 and BA.5-driven wave is attenuating, however, with data from the last couple of weeks of this period showing the death toll falling.

This trend is likely to continue into the winter, said Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia.

“[There will be] fewer deaths in August this year than last,” he said. “I suspect that over the next three months, we shall see [that Covid] deaths [are] a lot lower than last year and probably that will remain the case for the entire winter.”

It is also probable that the elderly will continue to be the group most at risk of dying of coronavirus. Older people have been at the highest risk throughout the pandemic, and this summer an amplification of this reality was observed, with Office for National Statistics data showing nearly half of the people who died in England and Wales were aged 85 and over. This represents a seismic 185 per cent increase on summer 2021.

The jump wasn't quite so stark in the demographic of those aged 75 to 84, standing at 77 per cent.

Conversely, deaths in under-65s decreased by about 58 per cent in summer 2022.

Broken down regionally, Wales and the east and south-west of England recorded the biggest increase in Covid summer deaths on the previous year, while the north-west was the only region to report a decline.

Taking mortality as a whole, Covid was the sixth biggest killer in the UK in July, three places higher than in July 2021, when it ranked ninth.

Updated: August 24, 2022, 2:44 PM