What We Know About The UK’s First 100,000 Covid Victims

On Tuesday, the UK’s coronavirus death toll passed 100,000 people since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

After a year of the virus, we’ve heard countless stories about the victims who have died after contracting Covid-19, from NHS workers to bus drivers. 

But with deaths now having taken place on such an enormous scale it’s difficult to comprehend what 101,887 lives truly looks like. 

While we can’t know the details of every person who died with Covid-19 in the UK, we can look at the data collected throughout the pandemic to understand a little more about them – where they lived, how old they were and where they worked. 

There are limitations to the data, and discrepancies with how it is collated across the four nations – but here’s what the statistics we have right now tell us about the first 100,000 victims of Covid-19. 

Where did they live? 

With by far the largest population of the four nations, England has recorded the highest death toll so far. Here are how the totals stood as of January 27: 

  • England – 88,042 
  • Scotland – 5,796
  • Wales – 4,561 
  • Northern Ireland – 1,763 

The government’s Covid-19 dashboard also breaks the deaths in England by region, as set out here in descending order by number of Covid-19 deaths: 

  • North-west – 14,313
  • South-east – 13,192 
  • London – 12,677
  • West Midlands – 10,460 
  • East of England – 10,046
  • Yorkshire and The Humber – 8.981 
  • East Midlands – 7,708 
  • North-east – 4,949
  • South-west – 4,914

The number of people who have died within 28 says of a positive Covid test also breaks down the total by local authority (that is, council area) across the four nations. The following list includes the top 20 upper tier local authorities, in terms of the number of deaths. While all 20 are in England, the full list – including local death tolls in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – can be found here.

  • Kent – 3,262 
  • Essex – 2,990 
  • Lancashire – 2,384 
  • Birmingham – 2,057 
  • Staffordshire – 1,888
  • Hertfordshire – 1,885
  • Surrey – 1,775 
  • Hampshire – 1,755 
  • Derbyshire – 1,389 
  • Nottinghamshire – 1,325 
  • Lincolnshire – 1,293 
  • Norfolk – 1,266 
  • Northamptonshire – 1,144 
  • East Sussex – 1,101
  • Suffolk – 1,082 
  • County Durham – 1,075 
  • Leeds – 1,046
  • West Sussex – 1,036 
  • Leicestershire – 993
  • Sheffield – 945 

What age and sex were they?

The ONS, which collates weekly death figures for England and Wales using the cause of death marked on people’s death certificates, shows the sex divide in Covid-19 deaths. There’s a weakness in this data because it only records two sexes, so no data is available for the impact of the illness on non-binary people.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, up to January 15, 2021, 55.0% of all deaths involving Covid have been in men. 

There have been more deaths in women aged 85 years and over (21,331) than men aged 85 years and over (18,486). However, these numbers may be influenced by the population structure, where there are more women aged over 85 to begin with than men of the same age.

This ONS graph shows the total number of deaths involving Covid-19 by sex and age group in England and Wales from December 28, 2019 to January 15, 2021.   

Here’s the total death toll in England and Wales, as counted by the ONS as of January 15, split by sex and age: 

  • Under 1 year – 2
  • 1 to 14 years – 4
  • 15 to 44 years – 566
  • 45 to 64 years – 5,703
  • 65 to 74 years – 9,206
  • 75 to 84 years – 18,228
  • 85 years and over – 18,486
  • Under 1 year – 0
  • 1 to 14 years – 4
  • 15 to 44 years – 396
  • 45 to 64 years – 3,143
  • 65 to 74 years – 5,224
  • 75 to 84 years – 12,678
  • 85 years and over – 21,331

What jobs did they do? 

New figures released on Monday by the ONS provided us with an insight into what industries suffered the highest numbers of deaths among the working age population, tracking the period from March 9 to December 28, 2020. 

Manual labourers, nurses and transport workers all had some of the highest death rates involving Covid-19 compared to other professions, with the figures broken down between men and women – again, no data is recorded for non-binary people.

Male Covid-19 deaths by occupation

  • Elementary occupations (manual labour) (66.3 deaths per 100,000 males in that sector; 699 deaths)
  • Caring, leisure and other service occupations (64.1 deaths per 100,000 males in that sector; 258 deaths)
  • Process, plant and machine operatives (52.8 deaths per 100,000 males; 827 deaths)
  • Skilled trades occupations (40.4 deaths per 100,000 males; 848 deaths)
  • Sales and customer service occupations (40.3 deaths per 100,000 males; 156 deaths)
  • Administrative and secretarial occupations (39.0 deaths per 100,000 males; 186 deaths)

More specifically, these were the jobs with the highest death rates from Covid for men:

  • Restaurant and catering establishment managers and proprietors (119.3 deaths per 100,000 males in that sector; 26 deaths)
  • Metal working and machine operatives (106.1 deaths per 100,000 males; 40 deaths)
  • Food, drink and tobacco process operatives (103.7 deaths per 100,000 males; 52 deaths)
  • Chefs (103.1 deaths per 100,000 males; 82 deaths)
  • Taxi and cab drivers and chauffeurs (101.4 deaths per 100,000 males; 209 deaths)
  • Nursing auxiliaries and assistants (87.2 deaths per 100,000 males; 45 deaths)
  • Elementary construction occupations (82.1 deaths per 100,000 males; 70 deaths)
  • Nurses (79.1 deaths per 100,000 males; 47 deaths)
  • Local government administrative occupations (72.1 deaths per 100,000 males; 23 deaths)
  • Bus and coach drivers (70.3 deaths per 100,000 males; 83 deaths)

Female Covid deaths by occupation

  • Process, plant and machine operatives (33.7 deaths per 100,000 females; 57 deaths)
  • Caring, leisure and other service occupations (27.3 deaths per 100,000 females; 460 deaths)
  • Elementary occupations (21.1 deaths per 100,000 females; 227 deaths)

More specifically, these were the jobs with the highest death rates from Covid for women:

  • Social workers (32.4 deaths per 100,000 females; 25 deaths)
  • National government administrative occupations (27.9 deaths per 100,000 females; 26 deaths)
  • Sales and retail assistants (26.9 deaths per 100,000 females; 111 deaths)
  • Managers and directors in retail and wholesale (26.7 deaths per 100,000 females, 24 deaths)
  • Nursing auxiliaries and assistants (25.3 deaths per 100,000 females; 54 deaths)
  • Nurses (24.5 deaths per 100,000 females; 110 deaths)

What ethnicity were they? 

In short, we don’t know. The true impact of the virus on Black and Asian people living in the UK is still hidden, because crucial data monitoring the ethnicity of those who died only goes back to July.

What we do know, however, is that Black people were found to be four times more likely to die from a coronavirus-related cause than white people, according to analysis published by the Office for National Statistics in May.

This analysis was later updated in October to include deaths up to July 28, 2020, and found men and women of Black and south Asian ethnic backgrounds had increased risks of death involving coronavirus compared to those with white backgrounds.

As HuffPost UK recently revealed, figures showing the number of BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) people who have died in English hospitals within 28 days testing positive give an incomplete picture, and even these were so hidden on an NHS website that the Office for National Statistics didn’t know about them when approached.

These figures are recorded in NHS England’s Covid-19 weekly total deaths archive, which records hospital deaths in England, but does not appear in separate datasets tracking the deaths on a daily basis. 

This information, correct up to January 13, covers 58,712 people of all ethnicities who had died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.

Of these, 6,953 (12%) were of a BAME background and 275 (less than 1%) were of a mixed background. 

There were also 5,135 deaths where ethnicity was either not stated or there wasn’t a match.

According to the government’s Covid-19 dashboard on the same date, a total of 88,042 people had died in England within 28 days of a positive test – almost 30,000 more than were recorded in the NHS England data. 

Death certificates provide the most reliable information about a deceased person, but these still don’t include an option to state an individual’s ethnicity – despite a months-long campaign for it to be included. 

“There’s a lack of information out there, especially since the second wave,” Sabby Dhalu, co-convenor for Stand Up To Racism, told HuffPost UK.

“I think there’s a deliberate suppression of recent information about the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME communities, unlike in the first wave.”

Ethnicity – unlike occupation, sex and age – is not currently recorded on death certificates. That means ONS specialists must link death certificates with the 2011 census and NHS records, which can’t always be done, to produce data about race. It takes time, and has only been done up to the end of July so far.

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