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CMI notes deaths below normal levels in recent weeks

During the coronavirus pandemic, the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) is publishing frequent UK mortality analysis through its mortality monitor. The latest update covers week 13 of 2021 (27 March to 2 April) based on provisional England & Wales deaths data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 13 April 2021.

The key points of this update are:     

  • Results for week 13 of 2021 are affected by the Good Friday bank holiday at the end of the week.
  • The number of deaths registered in England & Wales in week 13 of 2021 was 1,988 lower than if mortality rates had been the same as in week 13 of 2019; equivalent to 20% fewer deaths than expected. The corresponding figures for recent weeks, unaffected by bank holidays, were 6% fewer deaths than expected in week 12, 5% fewer in week 11, and 2% fewer in week 10.
  • There have been around 107,200 more deaths than expected in the UK from the start of the pandemic to 2 April 2021. Of these, 46,400 have occurred since the start of the second wave.
  • The number of deaths with COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate was 400 in week 13 of 2021, compared to 489 in week 12 of 2021.

Cobus Daneel, Chair of the CMI Mortality Projections Committee, said:

“Lockdown restrictions and the vaccination programme have had a significant impact on deaths, and mortality in the past four weeks has been below normal levels for the time of year. Deaths have fallen fastest in the oldest age groups, consistent with the vaccination programme targeting those age groups first.”

We define “excess” deaths as the difference between actual deaths in a week, and those that we would have expected if mortality rates had been the same as in the corresponding week of 2019. We use 2019 as the most recent “normal” year of mortality observed, and mortality in the first 12 weeks of 2019 and 2020 were similar.

The ONS data released today relates to registered deaths. Good Friday fell at the end of week 13 of 2021 and is likely to have led to a lower number of death registrations in that week than in the absence of a bank holiday. As week 13 of 2019 did not have a bank holiday, we expect that excess deaths in week 13 of 2021 were lower (i.e. more negative) than if the pattern of bank holidays had been consistent.

For the purposes of the mortality monitor, the CMI treats the pandemic as being deaths registered from week 10 of 2020 onwards (i.e. from 29 February 2020) and the second wave as being registrations from week 38 of 2020 onwards (i.e. from 12 September 2020).

Now that excess deaths are relatively low, the CMI will publish two types of pandemic mortality monitor:
A weekly “summary” without a press release. The next is planned for week 14 of 2021 on Tuesday 20 April 2021.
A more detailed version, with a press release, every four or five weeks. The next is planned for week 17 of 2021 on Tuesday 11 May 2021.

All mortality monitor weekly updates are publicly available on the mortality monitor page.