First wave: excess deaths were substantially higher in England than in Scotland
Second wave: Scotland did not see the same increase in excess deaths seen in the rest of the UK
To date: the cumulative death rate from COVID has been substantially lower in Scotland than in England and Wales
I’ve been on the lookout for an up-to-date, concise, clear summary from an authoritative source of a comparative analysis of key Covid statistics for the UK nations. It’s been a feature of corporate media and the BBC throughout to avoid or at best downplay any such objective comparison.
Well, I’ve just found one such analysis and from an unexpected source: it’s from a research study whose prime focus is on government financing of the Covid response in England and its implications for the response in NI, Scotland and Wales.
The report is entitled ‘Designing and funding the devolved nations’ policy responses to COVID-19’. Published on 22 April 2021, it is written by David Bell, Professor of Economics at the University of Stirling; David Eiser, Senior Fellow at the Fraser of Allander Institute (FoAI); and David Phillips, Associate Director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). (Note the IFS’ involvement – so what follows must be ’authoritative’!)
The report asks the question: “Was the COVID-19 pandemic an asymmetric shock?” at the level of the UK nations. It examines health outcomes whilst arguing that there is no single measure which summarises the additional demands placed on health and social care provision by the pandemic. However, the report concludes that the best indicator is overall ‘excess deaths’ – calculated as the percentage increase in deaths relative to the previous five years for each week during the pandemic.
It correctly notes: “This will not depend on COVID-19 testing or recording policies, and may pick up changes in deaths due to other causes (e.g. other diseases, accidents, etc.) that have also been impacted by the pandemic.”
The outcomes have not been the same
Excess deaths for the UK nations are shown on a comparable basis in Figure 1 (reproduced from this Bell et al report). The authors point to the following features:
- timing is broadly similar throughout – (although I’d argue in detail not precisely so)
- April-May 2020: during the first wave excess deaths were substantially higher in England than in the devolved nations.
- November 2020 to February 2021: the pattern is more irregular, with Wales having the highest level of excess deaths in December 2020 and January 2021 but falling to the lowest level by the end of February and also relatively high again in England
- Scotland did not see the same increase in excess deaths between mid-December and mid- February seen to varying extents in the rest of the UK – and especially in England and Wales.
This ‘excess deaths’ graph reveals both less of a rise in ‘excess deaths’ and a more stable position in Scotland during the second wave than in the other three UK nations.
I wonder if those in Scotland reliant on the corporate media or the BBC for their information on the health outcomes of the pandemic have an awareness of these facts?
The authors also plot (in their Figure 2, reproduced below) deaths per 100,000 population since the start of the pandemic. They use as the measure where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. They argue that: “Despite the potential for differences in reporting policies between the nations, this is the best available measure if one wants to consider health and social care expenditures specifically related to COVID-19.” They make the following (obvious) observation:
- by early April 2021: the cumulative death rate from COVID-19 was higher in Wales than in England, while Scotland and Northern Ireland experienced lower death rates.
It is notable that one part of the UK, namely NI, separated physically from Great Britain and bordering another independent nation state first diverged from the rUK trend in mid April 2020 and maintained a substantially lower death rate per 100,000 population throughout the pandemic to date.
It was around mid December 2020 that the rate of rising mortality in Scotland became different – lower – from that in England. As the graph shows, the cumulative deaths per 100,000 population associated with Covid in England and Wales is currently substantially higher than in Scotland.
Again, will those in Scotland reliant on the corporate media or the BBC for their information on the health outcomes of the pandemic have an awareness of this fact!