How do Covid death rates compare across the UK?

London: Between the start of 2020 and June 2022, England saw death rates 3.2% higher than in the years leading up to the pandemic, shown on the right hand panel of the chart below.

These figures come from an analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) of data from across Europe.

It compared death rates during the pandemic with those seen in the five years before it.

But over the whole period studied by the ONS, it was only a little better off than England, with death rates 3% above expected levels.

While death rates around 3% above average levels might sound like a small number, it represents more than 150,000 deaths across the UK.

Wales (2.1%) and Northern Ireland (1.7%) weren’t hit quite so hard.

Those gaps within the UK pale in comparison with the differences between the UK and other countries.

You can argue that policies and outcomes in the different UK administrations were actually relatively similar.

Australia and New Zealand took a very different approach, taking an early decision to “pull up the drawbridge”.

In the first year of the pandemic, the death rate in Sweden looked much worse than those in its Nordic neighbours.

But over the whole pandemic, it looked very similar to countries like Norway, Finland and Denmark. They all had lower death rates than the UK.

Or would a Swedish style response have played out in the same way in the UK, with our very different climate, population density, culture and healthcare?

The inquiry will of course focus on the differences in decision-making between UK nations.

But, on the measure of Covid deaths at least, those differences may be less important than the lessons that the UK as a whole takes from the inquiry.