COVID-19: Coronavirus was third most common cause of death in October - having not been in top 10 month before

Thursday 19th November 2020 16:00 GMT

The Official for National Statistics (ONS) has said 3,367 (7.8%) of the 43,265 deaths in England last month involved COVID-19.

There were also 2,713 more deaths in England than the five-year average for October.

There were 2,992 deaths registered in Wales in October - 258 more than the five-year average.

The figures for England and Wales show mortality rates for deaths due to coronavirus have increased for the second month in a row.

It comes as the government's weekly Test and Trace figures show a total of 167,369 people tested positive for COVID-19 at least once in the week to 11 November.

This is the highest weekly number since the system was launched at the end of May and is 11% up on the previous week.

Patients were aged between 35 and 102. All except nine, aged between 54 and 99, had known underlying health conditions.

A further 346 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 37,470, NHS England said on Thursday.

Patients were aged between 35 and 102. All except nine, aged between 54 and 99, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between 19 October and 18 November, with the majority being on or after 16 November.

It was also announced that there have been a further 1,048 cases of coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 69,497.

Public Health Wales reported another 23 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 2,307.

In the ONS figures, the age-standardised mortality rate for deaths due to COVID-19 in October was 63.5 deaths per 100,000 people in England and 81.9 deaths per 100,000 people in Wales.

The age-standardised death rate in England in September due to COVID-19 was 12.6 per 100,000 people.

It was 10.8 per 100,000 people in Wales.

The rate is a weighted average of the age-specific mortality rates per 100,000 people.

Although mortality rates due to COVID-19 increased in October, they remain significantly lower than in April and May.

The leading cause of death in October was dementia and Alzheimer's disease, accounting for 11.3% of all deaths in England and 10.2% in Wales.

The second most common cause of death in October was heart disease.

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There have so far been 448,579 overall deaths in England in 2020 - 37,873 more than the five-year average for January to October, according to the ONS.

There have been 29,018 deaths in Wales - 1,419 more than the five-year average.

COVID-19 was the underlying cause of 50,012 deaths that occurred in England (11.1%) and 2,629 of all deaths in Wales (9.1%) from January to October 2020.

This week's government Test and Trace data shows that of those who tested positive, some 60.5% had their close contacts traced. This is unchanged from last week.

Meanwhile, Oxford University has said its COVID-19 vaccine produces a strong immune response in older adults.

The phase one and phase two results suggest that one of the groups most at risk of death or serious illness from COVID-19 may be able to build immunity, according to data published in The Lancet medical journal.

Analysis: If Test and Trace is meant to be improving, it's off to a slow start

By Rowland Manthorpe, technology correspondent

The news about a vaccine means the end of the pandemic is in sight, but even in the most optimistic scenarios it is still some way off - and COVID is surging once again.

Two weeks into lockdown, there are signs that infections are levelling off, but hospital admissions and deaths are still rising and most likely will for some time.

This is not only desperately sad, it also poses an urgent question for the government: What is it doing during lockdown to ensure that Test and Trace can function effectively?

Today's official figures provide little proof of activity. The proportion of people contacted and the time taken to contact them are still well below target (albeit only for the first week of lockdown).

It appears that the government is looking to rapid testing as an alternative - but there are real doubts over its efficacy and questions over how it will connect to existing systems.

Test and Trace was given four weeks to make an improvement. On this evidence, it is off to a predictably slow start.

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