England had the highest overall relative excess mortality from January to June 2020 out of all the European countries compared in new analysis from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

It found that while England did not have the highest peak mortality, it did have the longest continuous period of excess mortality of any country compared, resulting in England having the highest levels of excess mortality in Europe for the period as a whole.

The ONS published a comparison of all-cause mortality between European countries and regions between January to June 2020. It said that all-cause mortality avoids the problem of different countries recording Covid-19 deaths in different ways, and also takes into account the indirect impact of the pandemic such as deaths from other causes that might be related to delayed access to healthcare.

Every local authority in UK experienced excess mortality

In the UK, every local authority area experienced excess mortality during the peak weeks of excess mortality (week ending 3 April to week ending 8 May) 2020, while other Western European countries experienced more geographically localised excess mortality.

From February to June, the highest rates of excess mortality were in areas in Central Spain and Northern Italy with Bergamo (Northern Italy) having the highest peak excess mortality of 847.7% (week ending 20 March) compared with the highest in the UK, Brent at 357.5% (week ending 17 April).

Madrid had the highest peak excess mortality of all major cities at 432.7% (week ending 27 March) while in the UK, Birmingham had the highest peak excess mortality of any major British city at 249.7% (week ending 17 April).

England saw the second highest national peak of excess mortality during Weeks 8 to 24 (week ending 21 February to week ending 12 June), compared with 21 European countries, with only Spain seeing a higher peak; at the equivalent of local authority level, areas of Central Spain and Northern Italy saw the highest peaks of excess mortality and exceeded any parts of the UK.

Excess mortality was geographically widespread in UK

Edward Morgan, Health Analysis and Life Events at ONS said: “Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first half of 2020 saw extraordinary increases in mortality rates across countries in Western Europe above the 2015-2019 average.

“The highest peak excess mortality at national level was in Spain, with some local areas in Northern Italy and Central Spain having excess mortality levels as high as 847.7% of average.

“While none of the four UK nations had a peak mortality level as high as Spain or the worst-hit local areas of Spain and Italy, excess mortality was geographically widespread throughout the UK during the pandemic, whereas it was more geographically localised in most of Western Europe.

“Combined with the relatively slow downward ‘tail’ of the pandemic in the UK, this meant that by the end of May, England had seen the highest overall relative excess mortality out of all the European countries compared.”