Boris Johnson boasts 'massive success in reducing deaths' despite worst rate in Europe

30 July 2020, 14:30

Maddie Goodfellow

By Maddie Goodfellow

Boris Johnson has said he believes England has had "massive success" in reducing coronavirus deaths, despite figures revealing that the country has the worst excess death total in Europe.

The Prime Minister made the comment just hours after the Office for National Statistics revealed that England topped the chart for excess deaths in Europe in the period between February 21 and June 12.

Excess deaths represent the number of people who die that is above the average total for the period across the previous five years.

The ONS figures showed the "age-standardised mortality" in England hit a peak of 107.6% in mid-April.

Sustained excess deaths meant England had the "highest levels of excess mortality in Europe for the period as a whole," the ONS said.

Boris Johnson made the comments on a visit to North Yorkshire
Boris Johnson made the comments on a visit to North Yorkshire. Picture: PA

However, when the PM was asked if he was ashamed of the figures, he claimed that his government has had "massive success".

During a visit to North Yorkshire, he said: “We mourn every loss of life that we’ve had throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“What I would say to them (families of the deceased) is that we really owe it to them to continue our work in driving the virus down.

“Clearly this country has had a massive success now in reducing the numbers of those tragic deaths.“We’ve got it at the moment under some measure of control. The numbers of deaths are well, well down.

“But I have to tell you that we’re looking at a resurgence of the virus in some other European countries. You can see what’s been happening in the United States.”

Boris Johnson boasted about a "massive success in reducing deaths"
Boris Johnson boasted about a "massive success in reducing deaths". Picture: PA

The latest ONS analysis states: "While England did not have the highest peak mortality, it did have the longest continuous period of excess mortality of any country compared, resulting in England having the highest levels of excess mortality in Europe for the period as a whole."

Within the UK, every local authority experienced excess deaths during the peak weeks of excess mortality - the week ending 3 April to week ending 8 May.I

n comparison, other Western European nations had more geographically localised excess mortality rates, while the city with the highest peak was Madrid, with 432.7 per cent excess deaths.

In the UK, the city with the highest level was Birmingham, standing at 249.7 per cent.It is the first time the ONS has compared mortality rates in different countries to measure the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Edwin Morgan, from the health analysis and life events division at the ONS, said: "Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first half of 2020 saw extraordinary increases in mortality rates across countries in Western Europe above the 2015 to 2019 average.

"The highest peak excess mortality at national level was in Spain, with some local areas in Northern Italy and Central Spain having excess mortality levels as high as 847.7 per cent of the average.

"While none of the four UK nations had a peak mortality level as high as Spain or the worst-hit local areas of Spain and Italy, excess mortality was geographically widespread throughout the UK during the pandemic, whereas it was more geographically localised in most countries of Western Europe.

"Combined with the relatively slow downward 'tail' of the pandemic in the UK, this meant that by the end of May, England had seen the highest overall relative excess mortality out of all the European countries compared."

It comes as the UK's coronavirus self-isolation period was extended to 10 days amid warnings of a potential 'second wave' of infections.

The length of time people with coronavirus symptoms across the UK will have to self-isolate for is to be increased from seven to 10 days, England's deputy chief medical officer confirmed on Thursday.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the period must increase from the current rule of seven days because of the risk individuals may still be able to spread Covid-19.

He told reporters the change for those who experience the key symptoms of a new continuous cough, high temperature or loss of taste or smell is needed because of the "low but real possibility of infectiousness" up to 10 days.

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