England officially has highest number of excess deaths in Europe

By the week ending 12 June, England's cumulative mortality rate was the highest among 18 European countries (Shutterstock)
By the week ending 12 June, England's cumulative mortality rate was the highest among 18 European countries (Shutterstock)

England suffered the highest levels of excess deaths in Europe during the first half of 2020, the Office for National Statistics has said.

England had the longest continuous period of excess deaths compared to any other European country between the week ending 3 January to the week ending 12 June 2020.

However, it was Spain that had the highest peak during this period, according to the report.

Excess mortality figures compared to 2015-2019 data

Out of Europe’s major cities, the highest peak in excess mortality was in Madrid, up by 432.7 per cent in the week ending 27 March.

While over in the UK, Birmingham faced the highest increase at 249.7 per cent, in the week ending 17 April.

By the week ending 12 June, England's cumulative mortality rate was the highest among 18 European countries where data was available and was 7.61 per cent higher than the five year average between 2015 and 2019.

Edwin Morgan, from the ONS, said, "Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first half of 2020 saw extraordinary increases in mortality rates across countries in Western Europe above the 2015 to 2019 average.

"The highest peak excess mortality at national level was in Spain, with some local areas in Northern Italy and Central Spain having excess mortality levels as high as 847.7% of the average.

"While none of the four UK nations had a peak mortality level as high as Spain or the worst-hit local areas of Spain and Italy, excess mortality was geographically widespread throughout the UK during the pandemic, whereas it was more geographically localised in most countries of Western Europe.

"Combined with the relatively slow downward 'tail' of the pandemic in the UK, this meant that by the end of May, England had seen the highest overall relative excess mortality out of all the European countries compared."

Is the report reliable?

Scientists have commended this data as the most reliable measure of the relative impact of coronavirus.

Since countries have all recorded their number of coronavirus-related deaths differently, this means not all of the data provided by individual counties will have accounted for deaths indirectly caused by the pandemic, such as those who died due to delayed and unavailable healthcare services.

How have authorities responded to the news?

Boris Johnson, addressed the findings by focusing on the successful reduction in deaths, saying, "We mourn every loss of life that we've had throughout the coronavirus epidemic. We really owe it to them to continue our work in driving the virus down.

"Clearly this country has had a massive success now in reducing the numbers of those tragic deaths."

However, Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth MP, said the new findings marked "a devastating moment", adding, "Every life lost is a tragedy and leaves behind grieving families.”

"We can no longer hide from the fact the government has not handled this crisis well and needs to urgently learn lessons from its mistakes,” he went on.

"Boris Johnson must now take responsibility for why we were so badly prepared. As we start to see a resurgence in other parts of the world, ministers need to urgently outline the steps they are taking to better protect people and save lives in the months ahead."