For the week ending January 26, 2024, weekly deaths in England and Wales were below the five-year average, at negative 1,393 excess deaths. In late 2022, and through early 2023, excess deaths were elevated for a number of weeks, with the excess deaths figure for the week ending January 13, 2023, the highest since February 2021. In the middle of April 2020, at the height of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there were almost 12,000 excess deaths a week recorded in England and Wales. It was not until two months later, in the week ending June 19, 2020, that the number of deaths began to be lower than the five-year average for the corresponding week.
Most deaths in a more than century in 2020
In 2020, there were 689,629 deaths in the United Kingdom, making that year the deadliest since 1918, at the height of the Spanish influenza pandemic. As seen in the excess death figures, April 2020 was by far the worst month in terms of deaths during the pandemic. The weekly number of deaths for weeks 16 and 17 of that year were 22,351, and 21,997 respectively. Although the number of deaths fell to more usual levels for the rest of that year, a winter wave of the disease led to a high number of deaths in January 2021, with 18,676 deaths recorded in the fourth week of that year. For the whole of 2021, there were 667,479 deaths in the UK, 22,150 fewer than in 2020.
UK and the COVID-19 vaccination race
Among European nations, the United Kingdom was the first to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for broad usage and started administering vaccinations on December 8, 2020. As a consequence, the United Kingdom had one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in Europe in early 2021, as other major countries such as France and German lagged quite far behind. The fact that the UK has some of the most positive attitudes to vaccine safety in Europe was also important, with high levels of vaccine hesitancy possibly impeding progress in other countries.