Winter deaths from Covid ‘no worse than flu’


Winter deaths from Covid ‘no worse than flu’: Data reveals number of fatalities from virus over cold months was similar to those caused by influenza in the past as vaccines and immunity bring mortality rate ‘more in line’ with seasonal figures

  • Number of Covid deaths over winter was similar to those by flu in previous years 
  • Deaths caused by the virus rocketed during the first waves of the pandemic 
  • Vaccines and immunity from infection mean Covid mortality rate has dropped 

The number of Covid deaths over the winter was similar to those caused by flu in previous years, official figures have revealed.

Deaths caused by the virus rocketed during the first waves of the pandemic before a vaccine was developed and rolled out.

This, along with immunity from natural infection, now means the Covid mortality rate has ‘fallen more in line’ with that of flu or pneumonia during pre-pandemic years.

In January this year, there were 4,100 deaths caused primarily by a Covid infection in England and Wales, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

That compares with a January average of 4,048 deaths from flu or pneumonia in the four years preceding the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

The number of Covid deaths over the winter was similar to those caused by flu in previous years, official figures have revealed

The trend is similar for the other winter months of December, February and March, the data shows.

Figures for flu and pneumonia deaths during the pandemic years were significantly lower than average due to reduced socialising and mixing, the experts say.

The findings form part of the first detailed attempt to contrast Covid and flu as causes of death during the pandemic.

Other results reveal flu and pneumonia were mentioned more times than Covid on death certificates between March 2020 and April 2022 but Covid was the ‘main’ cause of death on four times as many occasions. ‘Deaths due to flu and pneumonia have fallen to historic lows during the coronavirus pandemic,’ the ONS said.

‘While deaths due to Covid-19 in the latest winter were still double that of those due to flu and pneumonia, they were more in line with those seen due to flu and pneumonia in pre-pandemic years.

Other results reveal flu and pneumonia were mentioned more times than Covid on death certificates between March 2020 and April 2022 but Covid was the ‘main’ cause of death on four times as many occasions. ‘Deaths due to flu and pneumonia have fallen to historic lows during the coronavirus pandemic,’ the ONS said

Other results reveal flu and pneumonia were mentioned more times than Covid on death certificates between March 2020 and April 2022 but Covid was the ‘main’ cause of death on four times as many occasions. ‘Deaths due to flu and pneumonia have fallen to historic lows during the coronavirus pandemic,’ the ONS said

Sarah Caul, head of mortality analysis at the ONS, said it was tricky to directly compare Covid deaths with flu and pneumonia because of the way the conditions were recorded and the growing levels of protection in the population

Sarah Caul, head of mortality analysis at the ONS, said it was tricky to directly compare Covid deaths with flu and pneumonia because of the way the conditions were recorded and the growing levels of protection in the population

‘However, it’s too soon to tell whether Covid-19 will develop a similar seasonal pattern to flu and pneumonia.’

The figures also show the average age of those who died with Covid was younger than for flu and pneumonia.

Sarah Caul, head of mortality analysis at the ONS, said it was tricky to directly compare Covid deaths with flu and pneumonia because of the way the conditions were recorded and the growing levels of protection in the population.

‘Infection and antibody levels, vaccination rates, restrictions and lockdowns and differences between Covid-19 variants all affect the data on Covid-19 deaths,’ she said.

‘Some of these factors also affected flu and pneumonia deaths. We can’t say for certain whether the conditions are behaving in similar ways or will do in the future. We will continue to monitor the data.’

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