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UK Reeling From Highest COVID-19 Death Rate in West, Second-Highest in Absolute Terms, Report Finds

The government announced that stricter lockdowns could be imposed in some regions of the country in the coming months to tackle regional flare-ups of the coronavirus, with the National Health Service’s test, track and trace system set to expand beginning June 1.

The UK has suffered the highest coronavirus-related death rate per million people among comparable, mostly Western nations where reliable data exists, the Financial Times has reported, citing excess mortality figures for 2020 compared with the same period last year.

According to the newspaper’s data, the UK registered 59,537 more deaths between the week ending March 20 and late May than the same period in 2019, indicating an estimated excess death rate of 891 people per million. That’s higher than any Western European nation, or the US. The UK also has the highest absolute excess mortality in Europe, and is second only to the US globally, FT’s analysis suggests.

According to Johns Hopkins’ coronavirus resource center, on the other hand, the UK has registered a total of 268,000+ cases of COVID-19 to date, and suffered some 37,542 coronavirus-related fatalities.

FT’s study compares total excess deaths per million, total excess deaths, and total excess deaths relative to historical average among 19 countries including the UK, the US, Italy, Spain, France, Peru, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Chile, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Israel and South Africa.

Based on its numbers, the newspaper suggests that “the timing of lockdowns relative to the spread of the virus had a significant effect on the total level of excess deaths,” and that “countries such as Germany and Norway, which imposed restrictions when the spread of the virus was limited, suffered much lower levels of additional deaths than those in the UK where the government waited longer before ordering a lockdown.”

The news comes following a report in the Sunday Times last week similarly arguing that London’s hesitation in implementing lockdown restrictions helped to cause a major spike in coronavirus cases.

One odd outlier in FT’s study is Sweden, a country which categorically refused to introduce major lockdown restrictions, but which faced an excess death rate equivalent to 414.41 deaths per million, just half that of Britain’s, and even fewer according to the newspaper’s own data. To date, the nation of 10.2 million has reported a total of 4,220 total COVID-19 deaths, with Sweden’s chief epidemiologist opting to pursue a strategy of herd immunity to tackle the virus instead of widespread lockdowns.

The UK government received flak early on in the pandemic over its pursuit a herd immunity strategy similar to Sweden’s, but has since altered its approach and introduced lockdown measures of varying severity throughout the country. The measures have helped to slow the spread of the virus, but have also had a severe impact on the island nation’s economy, causing a spike in unemployment and fears of a 14 percent drop in GDP in 2020.

On Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that stricter social distancing measures could be put in place in some areas in future as part of the NHS’s ‘test and trace’ system to try to stop the spread of regional flare-ups. The measures were unveiled after the government laid out a road map on easing lockdown restrictions.

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