County Durham sees highest coronavirus death toll in North East

There have been more coronavirus deaths in County Durham than any other part of the North East.
A file picture from PA. Picture by Ben Birchall/PA WireA file picture from PA. Picture by Ben Birchall/PA Wire
A file picture from PA. Picture by Ben Birchall/PA Wire

According to official figures, 516 deaths in the county so far this year have been either caused by or linked to COVID-19.

However, as a proportion of deaths in 2020 up to mid-May, the virus has accounted for about 17 per cent of the total 2,936 recorded – slightly higher than the North East average, but lower than Middlesbrough and Sunderland, the two worst affected areas of the region.

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The latest data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) runs up to May 15 and shows the number of fatalities in which coronavirus was mentioned on a death certificate.

This does not include so-called ‘collateral deaths’ of anyone who may have died from a separate condition as a result of treatment or diagnosis being delayed by the virus outbreak.

The number of COVID deaths in a single week in County Durham peaked with 109 in mid-April, when the virus was linked to more than two fifths of all fatalities.

The following week the number of COVID deaths fell, although a bigger fall in the overall number of deaths meant the proportion attributed to the virus rose slightly.

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The most recent data for the county, for the week ending May 15, saw a rise in the total number of deaths, up to 202 from 160 the previous week, although the number of coronavirus-linked deaths remained flat.

Within the wider North East, there have been 14,083 deaths since the start of 2020, 2,166 of which have been linked to the virus.

National figures have shown falling death rates, following a peak several weeks ago.

“These numbers confirm a steady downward trend in both deaths from all causes and from Covid that has been evident since the middle of April,” said Prof David Leon, Professor of Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“This downward trend is seen in all settings.

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“In care homes and hospitals, total deaths [nationwide] in this most recent week ending 15 May have more than halved compared to their respective peaks.”

Prof Leon also said the latest data suggested so-called ‘collateral deaths’ of people who had delayed treatment or diagnosis of some health conditions due to the coronavirus outbreak may also be falling.

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