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No sign of second wave: ONS data shows normal level of deaths for time of year


There's no sign of a second wave of coronavirus, experts said, as new numbers from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed deaths are just 1.5 percent above the five-year average and are on a normal trajectory for the time of year.

Although the number of Covid deaths rose to 438 in the week ending October 9 - a 36 percent increase from the previous week when it was 321 - total deaths rose just 143 percent above the five-year average. In total, there were 19 fewer deaths than in the same week last year.

Experts at Oxford University said the 1,200 death number would need to be above the norm before it would normally be viewed as an "excess" over the expected variation in the data.

The researchers also found that there would typically be around 1,600 weekly deaths from flu and pneumonia in the same week. The number of deaths from coronavirus, flu and pneumonia is currently 1,621, suggesting that expected respiratory disease deaths are practically not increasing.

The ONS numbers also don't take into account the UK's growing and aging population, which is projected to increase the number of deaths over time and which is likely to offset at least part of the increase.
For example, the number of deaths in the week leading up to October 9 between 2010 and 2019 rose from 9,281 to 9,973 - about 70 additional deaths per year.

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) at Oxford University, said: "There is no evidence of a second wave until October 9th. At week 41 the number of registered deaths was over 1.5 percent the five-year average.
"We consider the current data to be a normal deviation and only consider it to be in excess when it reaches two standard deviations, which is about 1,200 deaths compared to the five-year average."

Dr. Jason Oke, also a member of the CEBM, has examined the total number of deaths since 2010 and stated that while deaths were in the upper range of what would normally be expected, they remained within normal limits. The numbers suggest that people who are normally expected to die from the flu or pneumonia are dying from coronavirus instead.

"The total death toll is at the top but it's not over yet," said Dr. Oke. "Is it because we have an almost identical deficit of flu and pneumonia deaths at this time of year?

"Covid-19 plus influenza / pneumonia deaths this week is 1,621, while the average flu and pneumonia for five years this week is 1,600."

The ONS numbers show that since the week leading up to September 4, registered coronavirus deaths in England and Wales have doubled roughly every two weeks.

However, the country is now entering winter flu season and an increase in respiratory deaths is expected. Public Health England (PHE) monitoring of respiratory illnesses shows that there is virtually no flu in the community right now.

For the week ended October 31, none of the 76,398 breath samples reported through the Respiratory DataMart system tested positive for influenza. In contrast, 3,068 samples were positive for coronavirus with an overall positive of four percent.

Tuesday's figures show that the UK has now registered just over 59,000 deaths from coronavirus, although the number of deaths from coronavirus is significantly lower.

There have been 53,863 coronavirus deaths in England and Wales as of October 9, recorded as of October 17.

So far this year there have been 34,174 deaths from coronavirus in hospitals, 15,712 in nursing homes, 2,561 in private homes, 761 in hospices, 227 in other community facilities and 205 elsewhere.

Figures released by the National Records of Scotland last week showed there were 4,301 deaths from coronavirus in Scotland as of October 11. There had been 915 deaths in Northern Ireland as of October 9 and recorded as of October 14, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.