Covid-19 was the leading cause of death in England in November

Covid was the biggest killer in England and Wales last month, with one in every six deaths caused by the illness, according to official figures. 

An Office for National Statistics report today revealed 18 per cent of people who died in November had Covid-19, which was higher than for any other single illness for only the second time since the pandemic began.

May was the last time Covid killed more people than anything else.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which are grouped together, are the only illnesses to have caused more death than Covid-19 this year. They remain the top cause of death and have been since 2015.

A total of 8,686 people died of Covid-19 in November in England, the ONS said, while the total number who died with it – some had their main cause of death listed as something else – was 9,867.

Although this total is the highest since the spring, it is less than a third of the 28,013 people who died of Covid-19 in April at the peak of the second wave. Second worst was May, when 11,406 were killed by the coronavirus, with November third.

For Wales, November was worse than May and had 726 deaths compared to 599 – though it remained lower than April’s 1,368. Cases are still rocketing in Wales, with the per-person rate doubling in the past month, suggesting the country could be heading for a second wave comparable to its first if infections aren’t brought under control.

The data show that people living in low income areas are three times more likely to die of Covid-19 than those in the wealthiest parts of the country. 

Coronavirus was the leading cause of death in England by a significant margin, accounting for more deaths than it has in any month since May, Office for National Statistics figures show

Coronavirus was the leading cause of death in England by a significant margin, accounting for more deaths than it has in any month since May, Office for National Statistics figures show

Today’s ONS report showed that the number of people dying of Covid-19 was 82 per cent higher than the second biggest cause of death, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia has consistently been the biggest killer in England since 2015, ONS data show, when it took over from heart disease. 

This year has upended that trend, with coronavirus killing tens of thousands of people – many of whom have also had dementia, which has forced the dementia figures down to below average at the same time.


At least 61,256 have died of Covid-19 in England and Wales between March and November this year, according to the ONS.

Split down by council districts called Middle Super Output Areas – each of which is home to around 10-20,000 people – these are the areas that have seen the most deaths:

  1. Crabtree & Fir Vale (Sheffield) – 68
  2. Bank Top (Darlington) – 43
  3. Leigh East & Higher Folds (Wigan) – 42
  4. Chadderton Central (Oldham) – 41
  5. Higher Broughton (Salford) – 41
  6. Eccles (Salford) – 40
  7. Bishop Auckland Central & West (Durham) – 40
  8. Cramlington & Beaconhill (Northumberland) – 39
  9. Church End (Brent) – 37 
  10. Castleton & Trub (Rochdale) – 36

Coronavirus has only been the top cause of death three times this year, during the peak in April and May and again last month at the height of the second wave.

Deaths were lowest in August and September, the ONS said, during the summer lull as England was almost freed from lockdown and social distancing before infections surged again in September.

Between March and the end of November this year, the ONS recorded 61,256 Covid-19 deaths – 57,963 in England and 3,293 in Wales.

In total, 517,124 people have died this year, the report said. This was 65,040 more than in 2018 and 49,975 more than in 2017 – this difference is described as the number of excess deaths.

It varies from the Covid total because there are also likely an increased number of people dying from non-Covid causes because they couldn’t get access to healthcare during the first wave. The excess may come down before the end of the year, however, because many coronavirus victims were likely to have died this year anyway. 

The ONS report said: ‘The coronavirus (Covid-19) was the leading cause of death in November 2020 for the first time since May 2020 in both England (accounting for 18.1 per cent of all deaths registered in November) and Wales (21.6 per cent of all deaths).

‘Looking at all deaths registered in January to November 2020, Covid-19 was the second most common cause of death in England and Wales (after dementia and Alzheimer’s disease).’ 

It added: ‘In November 2020, the mortality rate significantly increased (compared with November 2019) to 1,213.8 deaths per 100,000 people. 

‘The November 2020 mortality rate was significantly higher than the mortality rate in every year back to November 2008 and was only significantly lower than November 2003 (the highest November mortality rate in our data time series).’ 

Local figures show that nine out of the 10 neighbourhoods with the most coronavirus deaths are in the North of England, with the 10th in Brent in London.

The worst-hit has been the Crabtree & Fir Vale area in Sheffield, where 68 people were killed by Covid-19 between March and November.

The other areas recording the most deaths have been in Darlington, Wigan, Oldham, Salford, County Durham, Northumberland and Rochdale. 

The statistics come as Britain’s second coronavirus wave rumbles on and the impact of England’s second lockdown appears to have worn off already, with the average number of cases being announced each day surging back above 20,000 for the first time since November 22.