Twice as many deaths involving Covid occurred this summer compared with last summer, according to analysis of new data – though rates have fallen in recent weeks as the latest wave decreases in severity in the UK.
Although the overall number of deaths of people with Covid in 2022 remains far below last year, the summer months have bucked that trend. More than 5,700 Covid deaths have been registered since 8 June when two Omicron subvariants became dominant. This is 95% higher than in the same period last year when there were 2,936 deaths involving Covid across the UK.
However, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also indicate that deaths caused by the latest Covid wave – fuelled by the two more transmissible Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, which became dominant in early June – are on the wane.
A total of 674 Covid deaths were registered in the UK in the week to 12 August, down from 802 a week earlier and 924 the previous week.
More than twice as many Covid deaths were registered between 1 January and 12 August 2021 as in the same period this year: 65,000 deaths by 12 August 2021 – driven by surging figures caused by the Alpha variant – compared with 28,303 in the same period this year.
Prof Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the “surge in infections associated with the BA.5 wave” is behind the increase in the number of deaths this summer compared with last.
“But we will see fewer deaths in August this year than last,” he added. “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.”
The fact that more people are dying this summer than last is most pronounced in the older age groups, a trend that has been consistent throughout the Covid pandemic. Almost half of the deaths recorded this summer in England and Wales were among people aged 85 and over compared with 27% of the deaths in 2021.
Deaths involving Covid have been the highest among old people throughout the pandemic, but over-85s have recorded the highest increase in the death rate, which is 180% higher this summer than it was in summer 2021.
The number of deaths among those between 75 and 84 has also grown: there were 77% more deaths in this age group this summer compared with last. However, there have been fewer Covid deaths among the under-65s, with the death rate decreasing by about 58% in summer 2022.
Wales and the east and south-west of England recorded the biggest increase in deaths involving Covid with more than three times as many deaths in each of these regions in the summer to date this year compared with the same period in 2021.
In just one region – the north-west – the number of Covid deaths decreased when com pared with the same period last year.
Covid was sixth among leading causes of death in July in England and Wales, the latest ONS monthly analysis of age-standardised mortality rates shows. In July last year, Covid was the ninth-leading cause of death in England and it ranked 22nd in Wales.