Dying with and due to COVID-19
A common question is: are people dying with COVID-19 or due to COVID-19?
- The daily measure in England counts: deaths within 28 days of a positive test result.
- Up to 3rd August, 95% of these deaths had COVID-19 on the death certificate.
- In England and Wales, about 9 in 10 registered deaths involving COVID-19 had the disease as the cause.
Counts and certificates
Viruses spread in the body by invading cells and then reproducing copies of itself. That virus moves on to inhabit nearby cells. In serious cases, SARS-CoV-2 lands in the lungs. That can trigger inflammation as the body tries to fight the virus. It can also injure other organs. COVID-19 patients die due to the disease for many reasons, including respiratory failure.
Public Health England analysed deaths where the person had a positive test result. This analysis was up to 3rd August 2020, excluding 1,438 deaths not linked to a death registration. 91% of the 40,160 deaths with a positive test result had COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate. That means COVID-19 was either the cause or contributory factor to the death.
That proportion rises to 95% for deaths within 28 days of the first positive specimen date. That includes samples taken after death.
Deaths within 28 days of a positive test result is the lead measure in England. Up to 3rd August 2020, about 1,700 people died with a positive test in that limit — but COVID-19 was not on the certificate.
The Office for National Statistics publishes death registration statistics. Medical certificates depend on clinical judgement, and do not need positive test results. For registrations up to 25th December 2020 in England and Wales:
- Deaths involving COVID-19 (as the cause or contributory factor): 77,686
- Deaths due to COVID-19 (as the underlying cause): 70,703
About 9 in 10 registrations involving COVID-19 have the disease as its cause.
In their August analysis, Public Health England examined deaths within 28 days of a positive test result. 95% of these deaths had COVID-19 on the certificate. That means COVID-19 was a cause or contributory factor in the death.
In England and Wales, about 9 in 10 deaths involving COVID-19 have the disease as the cause. Most people who die with COVID-19 die due to the disease.