The day after the Welsh health minister refused to rule out more restrictions as hospital cases of coronavirus hit a new high data shows that Wales’ coronavirus death rate is significantly higher than anywhere else in the UK.
The latest statistics from the Office of National Statistics show that the death rate in Wales for the week ending November 27 is a third higher than over the border in England.
For the week ending November 27 Wales recorded 218 deaths with Covid-19, giving a death rate of 69.14 for every million people.
Although this is five fewer deaths than registered in the previous week, which had been the highest since early May, it still means the coronavirus death rate is considerably higher than England’s 50.14 deaths per million population.
In England they were only halfway through a four-week national lockdown which ended on December 2. During that second lockdown pubs, restaurants, gyms, and non-essential shops in England were forced to close for four weeks from November 5 although schools, colleges and universities were allowed to stay open.
Elsewhere in the UK Public Health Scotland recorded 233 deaths in the week ending November 27, giving a death rate of 42.65 per million. Nicola Sturgeon instigated a four-tier system of restrictions across Scotland, with more than two million people subject to the toughest level four restrictions, on November 20.
Across the Irish Sea Northern Ireland reported 81 deaths which equates to a death rate of 42.77 per million, according to data from the country’s statistics and research agency.
All death rate figures are based on the 2019 population estimate from Stats Wales.
At local authority level there were 31 deaths involving Covid registered in Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT), ranked 13th in the highest 20 local authority areas across England and Wales for the week.
Neath Port Talbot, with 26 deaths, was ranked 19th. In the two weeks since health officials have warned that infections in the area could soon reach “catastrophic levels”.
When compared to other European countries Wales ranks higher than both France and Germany but is considerably lower than Italy.
According to data collated by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in the week ending November 27 France had a death rate of 57.15 per million, Germany was 23.56 per million, and the Republic of Ireland was just 5.3 per million. The death rate in Italy surpasses its European neighbours at 82.5.
Overall deaths – that is deaths recorded across all settings – are nearly a quarter above what we would normally expect to see in the UK at this time of year.
So-called excess deaths, which compare all registered deaths with previous years, are above the five-year average. Looking at the number of deaths we would normally expect to see at this point in the year is seen as a useful measure of how the pandemic is progressing.
The area with the most deaths in Wales was the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area which reported 62 deaths in the week ending November 27, with 43 of these in hospitals.
There were also 44 deaths in the Aneurin Bevan health board area across all settings, 39 deaths in Swansea Bay – the highest number since the start of May – plus 23 in Betsi Cadwaladr and 21 in Cardiff and Vale.
There were 16 deaths in Hywel Dda and 13 deaths involving Powys residents – again the highest number since early May.
At the start of the week Vaughan Gething hinted another lockdown may be needed in Wales to stop the NHS being overwhelmed as the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital soared to a record high.
There are now more than 1,800 people in Welsh hospitals with confirmed or suspected coronavirus – the highest number recorded and 400 more than the previous peak in April. Wales is now the only part of the UK where infection rates did not fall at the end of November.
It has led the Welsh Government to concede that it might have been better to bring in other curbs when the fire-break was lifted. Despite early signs showing that the fire-break lockdown had had an effect on cases of the virus it wasn’t enough.
On November 27 First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The problem is that post the fire-break period, as people have mixed, it has come back faster and further than we anticipated. It may have been that had we had stricter restrictions coming out of the fire-break that might have made a difference.”