DEATH rates in Britain may have already returned to normal as coronavirus fizzles out — and we could avoid a second peak, experts said on Tuesday.
In a landmark moment in the battle against the killer bug, Professor Carl Heneghan said infections are dropping so fast he expects to see zero excess deaths in official figures next week.
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Trends suggest the number of deaths for the last week of May will be at a similar level to the same week in previous years. Professor Heneghan, from the University of Oxford, also predicted there will be no Covid-19 deaths by the end of the month — a milestone reached by Spain on Monday.
He said: “There’s been a continued reduction in hospital deaths, care home outbreaks are coming down, so all deaths by Week 22, I’m expecting, will be back to where we should be.
“The trend in the data suggests that by the end of this month we should be in a period where we are starting to see no deaths.”
But he warned that his prediction was dependent on health and social care chiefs getting a grip on care home infections.
It comes after the Office for National Statistics published its latest death figures on Tuesday.
The data — which has a two-week lag — showed the weekly coronavirus death toll plummeted by 1,221 in a week to its lowest level in almost two months.
There were 12,288 deaths from all causes recorded in England and Wales in the week ending May 22, referred to as Week 21.
This was 2,285 fewer than the previous week but still 2,348 more than usual for the time of year — with 9,940 the five-year average.
At the pandemic’s peak in April, there were almost 12,000 excess deaths a week. There were 56,308 excess deaths in England and Wales between March 21 and May 22.
Some 2,589 of the deaths recorded in the week ending May 22 mentioned Covid-19 — down a third in a week. The percentage of all deaths involving Covid-19 has continued to decrease across all English regions.
Adding figures for the rest of the UK takes the total number of coronavirus fatalities to 48,896.
Meanwhile, University of Aberdeen infections expert Professor Hugh Pennington said there is no evidence to suggest a second wave of the deadly virus is coming.
He added: “If we get the easing of lockdown wrong, far more likely would be a continuation of infections — many in the form of localised outbreaks — but not waves or peaks.
“Defeatist flu models still lurk behind current Covid-19 predictions. That the virus will persist for ages is a flu concept.
“These predictions should be put to one side.”
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