Relief as Wigan death rates plummet

There have been far fewer funerals this year than lastThere have been far fewer funerals this year than last
There have been far fewer funerals this year than last
Far fewer Wigan lives have been lost year compared to last, latest figures show.

Last year 592 more people died in the borough than expected against the previous five-year average - what are called “excess deaths.”

But since lockdowns at the turn of the year and the rapid roll-out of the vaccine programme there has been an extraordinary turn-around in the borough.

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Based on estimates for 2015-19, Wigan was predicted to see 1,757 deaths from any causes in the first 26 weeks of 2021).

But there were 1,727 deaths during this period – 30 fewer than were estimated.

Of the deaths registered in the first half of 2021, 268 (16 per cent) had Covid-19 on the death certificate.

Excess deaths are considered a better measure of the overall impact of Covid-19 than simply looking at mortality directly linked to the virus, as they capture deaths that may have been indirectly caused by the crisis.

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Across England, there were 29,700 excess deaths during the first eight weeks of the year, as the effects of the second coronavirus wave were felt.

But between March and the start of July, there were 10,700 fewer deaths than expected.

The King’s Fund said Covid-19 may have caused the premature deaths of some people, particularly the elderly, who would have died of other causes in the weeks and months following the peak periods of the pandemic.

It added that the number of excess deaths has followed the waves of Covid-19 infections rather than any seasonal trends as is usually the case.

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Dr Veena Raleigh, senior fellow at the think tank, said: “Compared with the 2015-19 average, the waves of high excess deaths in both 2020 and 2021 have been followed by a fall in deaths.

“In total, there were more excess deaths in the second wave than the first wave of the pandemic, which may explain why there is a bigger deficit in deaths between March and July 2021.”

The week ending February 5 was the deadliest of the first half of 2021 in England, when there were 5,004 excess deaths.

In Wigan, the highest weekly excess death total came in the seven days to January 8, when the area recorded 31 excess deaths.

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By contrast, there were 18 fewer deaths in the week ending May 7 than had been predicted.

Of the first 26 weeks of the year, there were nine when registered deaths surpassed the estimate, 15 when the death toll fell below this point and two when it was equal to it.

Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust, said England has seen fewer deaths from other illnesses such as flu this year because of social distancing and lockdowns.

She added: “Case numbers are beginning to fall again, but excess deaths for this time of year against the average have been creeping up.

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“This rise is in line with the recent case rise over the last few weeks, but thanks to the vaccine effect, not as rapidly as cases, or in line with previous waves.”

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