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Record 22 weeks of excess mortality, says CMI

During the coronavirus pandemic, the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) is publishing frequent UK mortality analysis through its mortality monitor. Today’s updates cover week 48 of 2021 (27 November to 3 December), based on provisional England & Wales deaths data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 14 December 2021.

The key points of this update are:     

  • The number of deaths registered in England & Wales in week 48 of 2021 was 383 higher than if mortality rates had been the same as in week 48 of 2019; equivalent to 3% more deaths than expected.
  • There have been around 116,900 more deaths from all causes than expected in the UK from the start of the pandemic to 3 December 2021. Of these, 44,000 have occurred in 2021.
  • The number of deaths in England & Wales with COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate was 792 in week 48 of 2021.

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

“The latest data shows 22 consecutive weeks of excess mortality in the UK – the longest continuous period of excess mortality during the pandemic.

“Despite its length, this period has had fewer excess deaths than in earlier waves. We have seen 19,600 excess deaths over the last 22 weeks, compared to 64,700 over 14 weeks during the first wave, and 50,800 over 21 weeks during the second wave.”

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

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, as mortality in the first 12 weeks of 2019 and 2020 were similar.

The total of the three excess death figures quoted above (19,600, 64,700 and 50,800) is greater than the total excess deaths since the start of the pandemic (116,900). This is because there have been periods of negative excess deaths (i.e. below 2019 levels) between the waves.

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 third wave as being deaths registered from week 27 of 2021 onwards (i.e. from 3 July 2021).

The CMI publishes three types of mortality monitor:

  • A weekly “summary” pandemic monitor, without a press release. The next is planned for week 49 of 2021 on Tuesday 21 December 2021. The mortality monitors for weeks 50 and 51 of 2021 are both planned for Wednesday 5 January, as the ONS does not intend to publish an update during the holiday period.
  • A more detailed pandemic monitor, with a press release, every four or five weeks. The next is planned for week 52 of 2021 on Tuesday 11 January 2022.
  • A quarterly monitor, in a format that pre-dates the pandemic. The next is planned for week 52 of 2021 on Tuesday 11 January 2022.