The number of people dying each week in England and Wales is below average for the first time since the first person died of coronavirus in March.
A total of 9,339 people died of any cause in the week ending June 19, down from an average of 9,404 for the same week over the past five years.
This was the first time the 2020 weekly total was lower than average since March 13, when the first Covid-19 fatalities were officially recorded, and the lowest one-week total for the entire year so far.
Although people are still dying of coronavirus, fewer deaths from other causes has cancelled them out and the total is now lower than would be expected.
Fatalities are now lower than average in both hospitals and care homes, but remain high in people’s private homes, with 827 more people than usual dying at home in the third week of June. Experts say many of these people are likely those with terminal illnesses who would normally die in hospital, such as cancer patients.
The week up to June 19 had the lowest coronavirus death count in 13 weeks and the rate of death halved in the space of just three weeks, with 623 more victims confirmed – down from 915 a week earlier and 1,279 by June 5.
In total, the ONS says 49,610 people had died and had Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate by June 19. This includes people who were tested and also those not officially diagnosed by a doctor.
Matching data from Scotland shows 4,119 people had been killed there by coronavirus up to June 21, while Northern Ireland recorded 812 up to June 19.
The total death toll in the UK, therefore, was at least 54,541 by mid-June, considerably higher than the 42,632 recorded by the Department of Health by June 21 (a 28 per cent increase).
In the week ending June 19 deaths were lower than average in the East, South East, North West and South West of England, about average in the Midlands, and above average in other regions and Wales, the ONS data shows (Pictured: Average is shown by dotted lines, real deaths by the blue line and coronavirus deaths the red line)
Four regions of England saw fewer deaths than average in the week from June 13 to 19, which is the most recent data from the ONS.
East of England was furthest below average, with 6.8 per cent fewer fatalities than usual, followed by the South East (3.8 per cent), North West (3.7 per cent) and South West (3.5 per cent).
West Midlands had just one death more than it would expect to see in an average year (0.1 per cent).
Wales was continuing to see the most excess fatalities, with 7.7 per cent more people than usual dying in that week – a total of 44 more than the average 573.
Today’s data shows the health impact of Covid-19 is continuing to shrink but there are still hundreds of people dying every week as lockdown begins to lift.
The latest figures do take into account any changes that might have happened as a result of people being allowed to spend unlimited amounts of time outside – which doesn’t appear to have affected the death rate.
It may be too soon, however, to show any changes triggered by rules allowing people to meet in groups of six, or of high street shops reopening.
Both those measures began in June and statisticians say it takes three weeks or more for trends to emerge in data because it can take that long for people to die after catching Covid-19.
But today’s promising data on deaths adds to growing evidence that the virus is, on the whole, retreating in Britain.
Separate data by the ONS last week estimated that around 3,800 people are catching the virus each day in England – some 26,900 per week. This is a significant fall from an estimated 61,000 per week – 8,700 per day – at the end of May.
The ONS said only around one in 1,700 people now have the illness and that ‘the number of people in England testing positive has decreased since the study began on 26 April’. It added, however, that the decline appears to have slowed recently as lockdown measures have loosened.
Today’s release showed that the North West – the region around Liverpool, Manchester and Cumbria – has experienced the most coronavirus deaths in England and Wales for four weeks running.
Between May 23 and June 19 801 people have died of Covid-19 in that region, compared to 644 in the South East and 605 in Yorkshire and the Humber.
At the other end of the scale, 228 people died in that month in the South West, along with 254 in London and 267 in Wales.
The North West, where there were 127 coronavirus fatalities between June 13 and 19, was the only region to still record more than 100 deaths in a week. Closest behind it was the South East with 88.