London has suffered its highest number of registered deaths in a single week for more than 40 years, according to data released today by the Office for National Statistics. The death toll is even worse than the first weeks of the Blitz in World War II.
Driven by the coronavirus outbreak, there were 2,832 deaths registered in the capital in the week ending April 10, the highest weekly number in London since February 1976. The second highest weekly number since 1976 was recorded the week before, week ending April 3.
The figures for the week of April 10 are nearly three times higher than the average for the same week over the previous five years.
Indeed, the BBC was reporting tonight that the death toll among Londoners for this period is worse than even the first weeks of the Blitz in 1940.
In Croydon, official figures for the four weeks to April 17 show that 480 people died. This is an absolute figure, and not specifically related to whether those who died had coronavirus. The usual weekly average number of deaths in the borough is 53 – so the Croydon death rate for that month is running at more than twice usual levels.
The ONS data records deaths in the community as well as deaths in hospital, so it paints a more accurate picture than the daily figures released by the Department of Health.
According to another agency, the Care Quality Commission, there have been 447 covid-19 deaths in London care homes in the two weeks to April 24, including 19 in Croydon (as well as 26 in Bromley and 23 in Kingston). Croydon, with 140 care homes in the borough, has been thought to be at particular risk to coronavirus among its elderly and vulnerable.
There remain some doubt and imprecision over the actual number of people succumbing to the disease because of the way the government has been managing the release of statistics, focusing only on confirmed deaths from those who have tested positive for coronavirus in hospitals.
But this excludes many people who have died while in care homes, or at home.
Figures published by the Financial Times today suggest that the actual death toll from the virus could be more than twice as high – with estimates in excess of 45,000.
Certainly, London appears to have borne the brunt of the pandemic impact.
Professor Sally Sheard, the head of public health and policy at the University of Liverpool, told the BBC: “There are similarities with how the 1918, 1957 and 1968 influenza pandemics moved through British communities, with urban areas again showing the biggest impact.
“This reflects issues such as overcrowded housing and international travel patterns.
“But the current urban focus of covid-19 also reflects the more recent growth of the gig economy, in which people have multiple places of work and sites of interaction.”
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