FALSE: Number of deaths in England, Wales lowest since 2017

At a glance
  • Claim: The number of deaths recorded in England and Wales in 2020 was the lowest since 2017.
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: The number of deaths in England and Wales in 2020 was the highest since 1918, when the Spanish Flu pandemic occurred.
  • Why we fact-checked this: This post was shared by a member of the Facebook group “Fact-checking in the Philippines” for verification.
Complete details

A post on the Facebook group “Global Action Against Bill Gates” claims that the recorded number of deaths in England and Wales in 2020 was at its lowest since 2017. This statistic is used as supposed evidence against the necessity of vaccines and face masks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The post, dated July 14, cites a ".gov official website" as its source.

The post was then shared by a member of the Facebook group “Fact-Checking in the Philippines” for verification.

This claim is false.

According to a July 6 release from the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics (ONS), the recorded number of deaths in England and Wales in 2020 was at its highest in over a century. The last time more people died in England and Wales was in 1918, the same year that the Spanish Flu pandemic occurred.

There were 611,861 deaths recorded in 1918, while there were 607,922 deaths in 2020. There were 533,253 deaths recorded in 2017.

The leading cause of death in England and Wales in 2020 was COVID-19 with 73,766 deaths. Excess deaths, or the number of deaths above the five-year average, was at 91,000 in 2020.

At the time of writing, COVID-19 has killed at least 4 million worldwide.

Countries with high vaccination rates, such as the United States, have seen a sharp decline in the number of infections and deaths related to COVID-19 infection. Around 98% of US COVID-19 deaths were among unvaccinated individuals, according to US President Joe Biden's former adviser on COVID-19.

The Spanish Flu was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Because of the lack of an influenza vaccine, antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections associated with influenza infections, and the improper enforcement of isolation, quarantine, and bans on mass gatherings, the number of deaths due to the Spanish Flu was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide. It’s estimated that its mortality rate ranged from 10% to 20%. – Jose Atienza/Rappler.com

Jose Atienza is a Rappler intern. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler's research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler's internship program here.

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