LONDON – According to a government report, England had the highest rate of excessive deaths in any country in Europe during a coronavirus pandemic, and the government reported a sharp increase that lasted longer and spread to more places than in hard-hit countries such as Italy and Spain. on Thursday.
The findings in a report by the British Office for National Statistics painted a bleak picture of how Britain – and especially England – reversed the first wave of the pandemic. They arrived as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and focused on fighting other countries to control new infections by moving them to quarantine tourism.
Critics say Mr Johnson has sought to divert attention from his own dilated initial response to the pandemic, which they say has left the country as vulnerable to recovery as its neighbors.
When Britain’s mortality from the virus in the first of May exceeded the number of deaths caused by other European countries, Mr Johnson argued that comparisons between countries were indecent because governments collected and analyzed data differently.
However, the statistics office said it had prevented these pitfalls by examining mortality across Europe from all causes – not just those attributed to Covid-19 – from January to June, and then compared them with averages from 2015 to 2019.
This takes into account Covid-19 deaths that have not been identified as such and deaths indirectly linked to the pandemic, such as deaths due to lack of access to hospitals during the blockade. Demographers believe that monitoring excessive mortality is the most accurate death rate during a pandemic.
There are some major gaps in the data, not least the lack of statistics from Germany, the most populous country in Western Europe, and a country that performs better than most in reducing infections and deaths.
The report also does not report the gross number of deaths from excessive deaths for each country, but rather the relative mortality rate above the historical average adjusted for factors such as age differences.
The statistical office specifically estimated that the United Kingdom suffered 55,763 deaths in excess from 14 March, when the virus began to spread in the country, until 17 July. An analysis by the New York Times estimates excessive deaths in Britain at 62,600 over the same period. most in Europe and a 31% increase in mortality over this season.
The British report confirms the harrowing images of stunned hospitals in Italy and Spain in March and April. At its peak, deaths in some parts of Spain and Italy rose sharply more than anywhere else in Britain and rose sharply to 9.5 times the usual rate in mid-March in Bergamo, northern Italy, soon the epicenter.
In England, where local growth was not so sharp, the biggest jump was in mid-April in London’s Brent district to 4 ½ times the normal. Birmingham had the highest peak for a large British city, at three times the average in recent years.
However, the mortality rate in Britain as a whole has been rising longer than in Spain or Italy, and the increase has spread to all corners of the country.
“Excessive mortality was geographically widespread throughout the UK during the pandemic, while in most Western European countries it was more geographically localized,” said Edward Morgan, an expert in health analysis and life events at the Office for National Statistics.
In most European countries, mortality rates rose sharply in late March and early April. In the last week of March, the worst in Europe with 33,000 deaths from excessive deaths, Spain alone recorded more than 12,500 fatal deaths, as would be expected from 2016-2019, and Italy more than 6,500 more, according to second study, French National Statistical Agency, INSEE.
All say Italy reported 35,124 deaths in Covid-19 and Spain reported 28,441, but the Times’ analysis puts more than 44,000 deaths in each of these countries.
The British report focused on England rather than the United Kingdom as a whole, because it is said that the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are pursuing their own health policies, often with different results. England, the largest part of Britain, saw a much sharper increase in mortality during the pandemic than others.
Public health experts attributed the British high toll in part to the timing of Mr Johnson’s blockade, which came a week later than in Italy and Spain. In early March, the government abandoned its mass testing and contact monitoring program, depriving it of data on how fast the virus had spread in the population.
Mr. Johnson’s reports may have played an unintended role. Fearing overruns by public health services such as hospitals in Italy, the prime minister called on people to “stay home” and “protect the NHS.”
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Updated July 27, 2020
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The British public took it to heart, and hospitals coped with a flood of patients, one of the few bright spots in the pandemic. However, experts said some sick people who were supposed to go to the hospital stayed at home – and some of them died of cancer, heart disease or other illnesses.
“Protecting the NHS” has been interpreted as “Staying away from the NHS,” said Devi Sridhar, chairman of the Global Public Health Program at the University of Edinburgh.
This could help explain one of the interesting differences in the report, she said. In London, which has been severely affected by the virus, there has been a small difference in the excess mortality rate between people over 65 and people under 65.
In contrast, in Madrid and Barcelona, there have been large differences between people over the age of 65 and the rest of the population, which is in line with a disease that is more fatal to older people. Manchester and Birmingham also showed age differences, although slightly less pronounced.
Professor Sridhar argued that England should adopt a policy of reducing new infections to zero, similar to the government’s policy in Scotland. With such a policy, she said it would make sense for the government to control incoming passengers and, if necessary, impose strict quarantines.
“Otherwise,” she said, “given the high number of cases in the community, it could be seen as preventing guilt for the second wave of Europe.”
Last weekend, British officials added Spain to a list of countries from which passengers must isolate for 14 days. They are now monitoring France, Belgium and Croatia, where new outbreaks have occurred. Johnson said he was determined to stop the second wave of infections imported by British holidaymakers.
The rapidly changing policy has engulfed thousands of holiday plans and provoked criticism from the Spanish government and the labeling of tourism businesses.
“We think it’s a big difference from the government not being able to do it more sensibly,” said Steven Freudmann, chairman of the Institute for Tourism, an industrial lobby group. “The risk is actually more to stay at home than in many of these countries.”
Elian Peltier contributed the report.