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The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak had escalated into a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. Just over three years later, on May 5, 2023 Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pronounced it over.
By the end of 2021 alone, the agency estimated the disease was responsible for 15 million excess deaths. The UK was particularly hard hit.
According to health charity The King’s Fund, the pandemic had led to 139,000 unnecessary deaths in England and Wales by July 29, 2022. By the time the crisis ended, this figure had risen to 159,910.
In view of improving the country’s ability to respond to such crises in future, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities has now collected and published data on excess mortality figures in England.
Breaking the figures down by local authority reveals the areas worst hit by coronavirus in the country.
Here, excess deaths are considered those above the 2015 to 2019 five-year average in each Upper-Tier Local Authority (UTLA) occurring between March 21, 2020 and May 5, 2023.
Lancashire recorded more excess mortality during the pandemic than any other area in England, at 5,040 – almost five times greater than the 1,075 average.
On the Irish Sea coast in the North West, the county is home to the cities of Blackpool, Blackburn, Preston and Burnley.
According to the latest Health Index compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – an overall indicator measuring physical health, mental health, living conditions, crime and access to services – Blackpool was found to be the least healthy area in the country.
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Data from Census 2021 echoes this. Nationally, 5.3 percent of the population reported being in “bad” or “very bad” health – in Blackpool, this proportion rose to 8.8 percent, the sixth-worst figure in the country. Blackburn with Darwen also came in above-average with 7.8 percent, as did Preston (6.5).
Lancashire was followed by Birmingham, which recorded 4,384 excess deaths, Kent (4,289) and Norfolk (3,287).
On the other end of the spectrum, of the ten areas with the lowest excess death tallies, six were in Greater London. Camden fared best of all – the only council in England to record a death count below expectations throughout the pandemic, with 36 fewer than forecast.
The fact that some of the wealthiest boroughs in the capital were spared the brunt of the pandemic – Islington, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea all in this bottom ten – chimes with research by The King’s Fund that found mortality to be “2.6 times higher in the most deprived than the least deprived tenth of areas.”
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