The coronavirus death toll: How many ‘excess deaths’ have there been in your area?
PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 June 2020 | UPDATED: 08:28 18 June 2020
Almost 600 more people have died in Suffolk in the past 12 weeks than they did last spring – with coronavirus only partly to blame for the rise.
Overall deaths in Suffolk have soared by nearly a third to more than 2,500 since the coronavirus first hit back in March – with 586 more people dying this spring than they did on average between 2015-2019.
In total, 508 of those deaths were down to coronavirus.
But the figures, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), also reveal a rise in deaths not attributed to Covid-19.
Between March 2 and May 29, there were 668 care home deaths not linked to coronavirus in Suffolk – up 35% from the five-year average of 494.
And 655 people died at home from conditions unrelated to coronavirus – up 33% from the five-year average of 491.
Figures ‘all but confirm what we long feared’
Helen Armitage, Labour’s spokeswoman for health and adult care at Suffolk County Council, said: “This lays bare the truly devastating impact coronavirus has had on Suffolk.
“We have long feared that the number of people who have died will be much higher than the official numbers, and this all but confirms it.”
David Finch, of the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Home Providers, said problems with testing early on could have led to Covid-19 and non Covid-19 deaths being over or understated.
“There are so many different aspects that could affect the number of deaths, but I don’t think we are anywhere near understanding why this has been the case yet,” he said.
“Once we are a few more weeks down the line we need to look at how Suffolk compares with neighbouring counties on all aspects. Families are asking why, and people are starting to ask questions.”
MORE: How the coronavirus crisis unfolded in Suffolk’s care homes
Suffolk D-Day veteran Harold Farrow died after a short illness at the end of March.
His family said there was initial confusion over whether the 96-year-old had contracted the virus, though this was later ruled out and not put on his death certificate.
His youngest son, Mark, described the impact of the pandemic on families losing loved ones as “heartbreaking”.
Many of his relatives were unable to attend the funeral due to the restrictions.
“We’ve got a really big family, lots of children and grandchildren,” he said.
“A lot of very close family members didn’t get the chance to attend the service.”
MORE: ‘Happy-go-lucky’ D-Day hero dies after short illness
Breaking the statistics down by district also reveals some areas of Suffolk have been disproportionately affected by ‘excess deaths’. Mid Suffolk has fared worse than its neighbours.
There were 99 more deaths there this spring against the five-year average - with the overall death toll up 41%, from 242 to 341.
Yet more than one in three (35%) of these 99 ‘excess’ deaths were not attributed to the coronavirus.
By contrast, every single additional death in Ipswich this spring – all 95 of them – were attributed to the coronavirus.
It was the only area of Suffolk which recorded all its excess deaths as coronavirus fatalities, with the town’s total Covid-19 death toll standing at 118.
Non-coronavirus hospital deaths in Ipswich fell by 38% from 144 to 89.
MORE: ‘We’re so grateful’ – Coronavirus survivors share heartwarming stories of recovery
Deaths in Mid Suffolk care homes shot up by 85% on the five-year average, going from 60 deaths per year to 112 this year.
But just 18 of those were attributed to the coronavirus.
The remaining 94 were not linked to the virus, with the death toll still up by 56% on the five-year average of 60 fatalities.
Mr Finch pointed out that there are more older people in Suffolk than some neighbouring counties, and within its districts, Mid Suffolk has a significantly higher proportion.
Seven in 10 care homes in Mid Suffolk have suffered Covid-19 outbreaks, according to Public Health England.
ONS analysis of non-Covid deaths in England found excess deaths occur predominantly in older age groups.
The largest increases compared to the five-year average were seen in deaths due to “dementia and Alzheimer’s disease”, experts added.
Stuart Keeble, Director of Public Health Suffolk, said the department continues to closely monitor numbers of excess deaths as part of its work to understand the impact of the pandemic locally.
“For Suffolk as a whole, we have seen an increase in excess deaths since January, but the numbers have declined in recent weeks,” he added.
“As access to testing has improved, and awareness of the full range of symptoms has improved, death certification practices may have evolved, meaning that accuracy of the proportion of excess deaths due to Covid-19 has probably increased over time.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman added: “Every death from this virus is a tragedy and our deepest sympathies go out to everyone who has sadly lost loved ones.”
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