15 October 2020
LCP’s Head of Health Analytics, Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard is one of the authors of a new study led by Imperial College London released today. The study shows that England, Wales and Scotland had among the highest rate of deaths from all causes, including COVID-19, as a result of the first wave of the pandemic.
The research analysed weekly death data from 21 industrialised countries between mid-February and end of May. England and Wales accounted for 28% of excess deaths across all countries combined, while Italy accounted for 24%, and Spain 22%. This data suggests a number of lessons, say the team, some of which may help avoid future waves of the pandemic from becoming as fatal as the first. For example, compared to countries such as New Zealand and Denmark, the UK, Spain, Italy and France introduced a lockdown after the pandemic was further along in the community.
England and Wales, together with Sweden (the only country that did not put in place a mandatory lockdown and only used voluntary social distancing measures), had the longest durations of excess mortality.
Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, said: “Our research suggests a number of factors may influence why some countries had higher number of deaths than others. Countries with comprehensive and effective community-based testing and contact tracing programmes, or those without such systems but who implemented early and effective lockdowns, had lower death tolls during the first wave. As we enter the second wave, test and trace programmes, and supporting people who need to isolate, are our most important lever to minimise the impact of the pandemic on direct COVID-19 deaths and deaths from other conditions. Such programmes also reduce the need for further prolonged lockdowns.”
Professor Sir Ian Diamond, National Statistician, added: "This sophisticated analysis throws more light on the scale of excess mortality in 21 industrialised countries and the differences between their experience of the pandemic. The authors have added to the body of robust evidence that is essential to understanding and tackling COVID-19 globally."