LONDON (Reuters) - England and Wales recorded the most deaths in 2020 of any year in more than a century, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a rise in the number of excess deaths, a senior statistician said on Wednesday.
About 604,000 deaths were registered in the two countries in the last 52 weeks, about 73,000 or 14% above the five-year average, Nick Stripe from Britain's Office of National Statistics said on Twitter.
He said only one year since 1900 had seen annual deaths top 600,000, which was 1918, when the Spanish flu pandemic struck.
"Looking at excess deaths, we began the year with death levels below the 5-yr average," Stripe said. "This was followed by a huge peak in the spring, driven by COVID, until lockdown 1 took effect."
He said the figures indicated that the number of excess deaths, adjusted for population, would be at the highest level since 1940.
"Even with measures taken to limit COVID spread, 2020 will still top 1951, the year of a major flu epidemic," he said. "Without all our efforts, 2020 could have been much worse."
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Jan Harvey)