More than 1,000 people in the UK have died of Covid on average each day in January, making it the deadliest month of the pandemic so far by the government’s count, with more than 28,000 deaths as of Thursday.
Today marks the first anniversary of when the UK recorded its first coronavirus death, which occurred on 30 January 2020.
A total of 28,171 deaths occurred in the UK between 1 and 28 January, 1,006 deaths a day, according to the government’s count of Covid deaths occurring within 28 days of a positive test. The previous highest death toll was recorded in April at the height of the first wave when the equivalent death toll stood at 24,070 deaths, an average of 802 deaths a day.
Subsequent data released by the Office for National Statistics showed that, when all mentions of Covid were counted, the true April death toll was 33,754 but due to a time lag to allow for all deaths to be registered, it will be some weeks before equivalent data becomes available for January.
One year after the first Covid known death took place, the overall death toll, including all mentions of coronavirus on death certificates, has passed 120,000.
This count is reached by taking the latest figures from the UK’s statistical agencies, which are up to date to 15 January in England and Wales (98,450 deaths), to 22 January in Northern Ireland (2,355) and to 24 January in Scotland (7,902), a total of 108,707 deaths.
Added to that are any Covid fatalities for which the date of death has occurred after those dates in each nation as per the government dashboard, bringing the death count to 121,381.
Karl Friston, professor of imaging neuroscience at University College London, and panellist on the Independent Sage group, said the total number of deaths was “likely to far exceed the number seen during the first wave”.
He said the rate at which deaths decline was likely to be slower and fluctuate. He said: “In short, it seems as if the current resurgence will, on the one hand, not attain the peak fatality rates of the first wave; however, it is likely to be more protracted and deadly. The actual trajectory will depend sensitively on sociobehavioural responses (eg opening schools) and the efficacy of vaccination.”
The UK reached 50,000 deaths on 23 May, just short of two months after the country’s first national lockdown. It took a further six months for the UK Covid-19 death toll to pass 75,000 on November 26 but less than a month and half for the death toll to reach 100,000 on 7 January.
The England death toll to 28 January now stands at 25,425, which is 18% higher than its April toll. Northern Ireland also recorded its highest monthly death count in January, with 470 fatalities, 41% higher than the 334 recorded in April.
Scotland’s January death toll is currently 8% lower than in April, according to the government figures.
December was the deadliest month of the pandemic thus far in Wales at 1,026 deaths, although, with two days’ data left before the month is out January’s death toll is likely to exceed that figure.
As the government figure is based on deaths within 28 days of a positive test, deaths recorded in April may have been higher due to the limited availability of testing at the time.