Excess deaths rose to their highest level since World War Two in 2020, new figures have shown.
Close to 697,000 people died last year, nearly 91,000 more than what would have been expected based on a five year average.
It means excess deaths have risen by 15% – the largest rise on record for more than 75 years.
The Covid pandemic is thought to have caused the steep increase and the Government is facing questions over why the country’s excess death rate is much higher than others in Europe.
The number of excess deaths is thought to be one of the key indicators of the severity of the pandemic because it shows how many more people may have died due to Covid, compared to those who may have died in any normal year.
Richard Murray, chief executive of The King’s Fund, told the BBC the picture was likely to worsen given Covid deaths are rising rapidly again.
In the last week alone, there have been 6,485 deaths of people who tested positive for Covid-19 within 28 days, according to the Government.
Mr Murray said: ‘The UK has one of the highest rates of excess deaths in the world, with more excess deaths per million people than most other European countries or the US.
‘It will take a public inquiry to determine exactly what went wrong, but mistakes have been made.
‘In a pandemic, mistakes cost lives. Decisions to enter lockdown have consistently come late, with the government failing to learn from past mistakes or the experiences of other countries.
‘The promised “protective ring” around social care in the first wave was slow to materialise and often inadequate, a contributing factor to the excess deaths among care home residents last year.
‘Like many countries, the UK was poorly prepared for this type of pandemic.’
It comes as the latest figures showed more than 98,000 deaths involving Covid-19 have now occurred in the UK.
A total of 93,030 deaths have so far been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, according to the latest reports from the UK’s statistics agencies.
This includes 84,449 deaths in England and Wales up to January 1, which were confirmed by the ONS on Tuesday.
Since these statistics were compiled, a further 4,869 deaths have occurred in England, plus 117 in Scotland, 245 in Wales and 118 in Northern Ireland, according to additional data published on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.
Together, these totals mean that so far 98,379 deaths involving Covid-19 have taken place in the UK.
It means the country is likely to pass the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths within days.
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