You asked

​I would be very grateful if you could supply me with the number of all deaths in the UK where the death certificate of the person mentions COVID-19 and/or Coronavirus as the only or one of the causes of death, since the beginning of the pandemic.

We said

Thank you for your enquiry.

We are responsible for the production of Mortality data for England and Wales, this is driven by information collected from the death certificate at death registration. National Records Scotland (NRS) and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) are responsible for statistics pertaining to Scotland and Northern Ireland. They can be contacted at and respectively.

When a person dies, in most cases a doctor writes a medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD) which is then recorded in the death registration (at a local authority registration office). The details are printed out as the official 'death certificate' for the next of kin. The same information is sent electronically from the registration office to ONS for us to produce statistics about causes of death.

The doctor or coroner certifying a death can record more than one health condition or event on the form. The medical certificate of cause of death has two parts, Part 1 contains the sequence of health conditions or events leading directly to death, while Part 2 can contain other health conditions that contributed to the death but were not part of the direct sequence. For statistical purposes one of the health conditions on the certificate is chosen as the 'underlying cause of death'. The underlying cause of death is defined as the health condition or event that started the train of events leading to death and is worked out according to rules from the World Health Organisation (WHO). COVID-19 is the underlying cause of death in around 92% of deaths where it was mentioned on the death certificate.

You can read in detail about the coding of causes of death and identifying the underlying cause in the ONS User guide to mortality statistics and the WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) instruction manual.

ONS and PHE COVID-19 deaths data are produced in different ways and have different purposes:

  • the daily COVID deaths counts reported on the government's COVID-19 dashboard (produced by PHE) shows deaths within 28 days of a first positive laboratory-confirmed test.

  • ONS weekly death registrations data for England and Wales, relate to the week that ended 11 days prior and are based on the cause of death reported on the death certificate, thereby not restricted to only deaths that showed a positive test.

More information can be found in a  blog by Professor John Newton of Public Health England about the complexities of counting COVID-19 deaths and the different methods used.

Please see our Deaths Registered Weekly in England and Wales publication. In the downloadable datafile beneath Figure 2, we publish weekly deaths that are due to COVID-19 and deaths involving COVID-19. We use the term "due to COVID-19" when referring only to deaths where that illness was recorded as the underlying cause of death. We use the term "involving COVID-19" when referring to deaths that had that illness mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, whether as an underlying cause or not. This publication is updated every Tuesday.

Deaths involving and due to COVID-19, England and Wales, deaths registered in 2020 and 2021

We have also been producing Pre-existing conditions of people whose death was recorded with an underlying cause of COVID-19, deaths registered in 2020, which may be of interest to you. This dataset can be found in section 7 of the Monthly mortality analysis bulletin. This dataset provides a greater insight into the leading pre-existing cause of death groups, for deaths occurring in England and Wales in 2020 that were due to COVID-19. This will be updated quarterly. COVID-19 deaths involving pre-existing conditions is split by broad age groups between 1 to 64 years and 65 years and over.