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AFP
July 31, 2020

England records most virus excess deaths in Europe

World

AFP
July 31, 2020

LONDON: England recorded the most excess deaths in Europe in the first half of 2020, while Spain saw the highest peak in fatalities as the coronavirus ravaged the continent, data showed on Thursday.Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) found England had higher above-average death numbers for longer than all European countries from the end of February to mid-June.Spain registered the second-highest toll in excess deaths -- defined as the number of fatalities registered in excess of the five-year average -- while Scotland saw the third worst figures, the ONS said.Meanwhile Spain also saw the highest national peak in excess mortality in late March, followed by Italy, with some local areas recording rates 600-850 percent above the average."While none of the four UK nations had a peak mortality level as high as Spain... excess mortality was geographically widespread throughout the UK during the pandemic," said Edward Morgan, of the ONS."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."The ONS analysis, its first international comparison of deaths related to Covid-19, relied on data published by the European Union’s statistics body Eurostat, which also gathers input from several non-EU countries.The Spanish capital Madrid has been the worst-hit major European city for excess deaths, with a peak in the week ending March 27.However, by the last week in May, England had recorded so many weeks of above-average deaths that it led the European comparisons.The London district of Brent saw the highest peak of excess deaths of any area in the nation, while Birmingham registered the highest peak for an entire English city, in mid-April.The UK government’s daily count of deaths by people who had tested positive for Covid-19, also shows the country has suffered the deadliest outbreak in Europe.That toll, a less comprehensive measure than excess mortality, currently stands at 45,961 deaths.However, the ONS has already reported that Britain recorded 65,000 more deaths than usual during the first few months of the pandemic to the end of June.Southern and western regions of the United States were grappling on Thursday with a renewed surge of coronavirus infections as the death toll in the world’s worst-affected nation passed 150,000.

Brazil is second to the US in terms of cases and fatalities, and also reported a sobering figure as it surpassed 90,000 deaths. Exactly six months after the World Health Organisation declared an international emergency over the deadly pathogen, countries around the globe are seeing rises in infections that are damaging economies and forcing disruptive protection measures.

Even nations that believed they had largely curbed the disease are being gripped by worrying second and third-wave resurgences, with Australia on Thursday reporting a record number of new infections and its deadliest day of the pandemic so far.

Despite efforts in place to contain the virus, Covid-19 has killed more than 666,000 people around the world and total infections have passed 17 million, according to an AFP tally. Global daily cases are now approaching the 300,000 mark, with the curve showing no sign of flattening -- it took just 100 hours for one million new cases to be recorded. Days after Australian authorities expressed hope that a Melbourne lockdown -- now in its third week -- was bringing persistent outbreaks under control, the surge is a potent warning that initial successes in managing Covid-19 can quickly unravel.

Thirteen deaths and 723 positive tests were reported in the southeastern state of Victoria alone, well beyond the previous nationwide record of 549 cases set on Monday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the steep rise in numbers was "very concerning".

In Hong Kong, where authorities fear a worrying third-wave of infections could cripple the healthcare system, the government reversed a day-old ban on restaurants serving dine-in customers following widespread public anger. All restaurants in the city of 7.5 million were ordered to only serve takeaways as part of a raft of ramped-up social distancing measures aimed at combating the fresh wave of virus cases.