Since 1959, when ONS monthly death records began, the number of deaths due to influenza and pneumonia in the first eight months of every year have been lower than the number of COVID-19 deaths seen, so far, in 2020.
Between January and August this year Covid-19 was listed as the cause of death in 48,168 fatalities recorded in England and Wales whilst pneumonia was accountable for 13,619 and the flu, 394.
Sarah Caul, Head of Mortality Analysis at the ONS, said: “More than three times as many deaths were recorded between January and August this year where Covid-19 was the underlying cause compared to influenza and pneumonia.
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“The mortality rate for Covid-19 is also significantly higher than influenza and pneumonia rates for both 2020 and the five-year average.”
People of all ages are most likely to die from coronavirus than influenza or pneumonia, however, as with the other respiratory diseases, those considered most at risk of death from COVID-19 are those aged 85 and over with figures between March and June showing a fatality rate of 1,243.0 per 100,000 compared to 862.5 per 100,000 for influenza and pneumonia.
According to the report, the majority of deaths occurred in hospitals while one-third of deaths occurred in care homes.
Experts believe that social distancing measures helped to bring down the number of deaths caused by flu or pneumonia, which were seven times below the 100,000 deaths they are known to cause each year.
Despite this, deaths from all of the respiratory conditions are likely to be on the rise again as winter sets in with deaths from coronavirus jumping from 13 to 53 in just three weeks from September 16.
In the community:
In order to control this, the government is hoping 30 million people will take advantage of their flu vaccine programme.
Head of Health Advice at the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK, Emma Rubach, urged people not to become complacent as winter sets and to book a flu jab.
She said: “The virus is continually changing and so getting a vaccine each year is the best form of defence from new strains.
“People at higher risk are being given priority, but flu season lasts until spring, so for those who haven’t yet been able to get a vaccine, we’d urge them to keep trying.”