Excess deaths were back this week, according to the ONS, with 855 (7.6%) registered above the five-year average in the week ending March 3rd. Of these, 349 were due to COVID-19 as underlying cause, leaving 506 from other underlying causes.
Excess deaths have been close to zero for the past five weeks, according to the ONS, suggesting to some that the trend of many more people than usual dying had come to an end. However, a closer look reveals this to be a mirage created by the ONS changing its baseline to include the large Alpha wave that occurred in early 2021. (To be fair to the ONS, it does note this change in the chart above.)
Below I have recreated the above graph but used the 2015-19 pre-pandemic baseline throughout. This could be criticised for not allowing for an ageing population. However, the last three years have been heavily affected by excess mortality due to the pandemic and the responses to it, which will have a much larger impact on the figures than a slight ageing effect, so the use of the consistent pre-pandemic baseline is warranted. Note that the Covid deaths (orange) include those with Covid as a secondary cause. In the Omicron era (i.e., since the start of 2022), 30-40% of these ‘Covid’ deaths are registered with a different underlying cause.