More people have probably been killed by coronavirus than were killed during the Blitz

24th Jun 2020

Claim

The official UK death toll from the coronavirus pandemic now equals the death toll from the Blitz.

Conclusion

At the time this claim was made, the government’s “official” published count of Covid-19 deaths was slightly under the number of deaths during the Blitz, although the numbers are very similar. The true number of deaths related to Covid-19 is likely to be higher than the toll during the Blitz.

An image that’s been shared over a thousand times on Facebook claims that the “official death toll” from the coronavirus pandemic in the UK now equals the death toll from the Blitz during the Second World War. The widely-shared image was posted on 8 June.

From what we’ve seen, at the time the image was posted, the government’s “official” published count of Covid-19 deaths was slightly under the number of deaths during the Blitz, although the numbers are very similar. 

Given that the death count published by the government is likely to underestimate the total number of deaths related to the virus, the claim if anything understates the reality, which is that there are probably more deaths related to the virus now than the number of people killed during the Blitz. 

In addition, the image in the post accurately depicts a scene from Kensington, London, after a bombing raid in 1940.

The Blitz was a period of bombing attacks on Britain by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War, and lasted between September 1940 and May 1941.

Estimates of the number of people killed range from between 40,000 and 43,000 people, and the higher of these seems the more precise.

The government’s official figure for the number of people who’ve died having tested positive for coronavirus in the UK is 42,647 at time of writing, and was around 41,000 as at 8 June, when this image was posted. This is the count since the start of March, so it’s worth bearing in mind that the deaths so far following positive Covid-19 tests have taken place over more than three months, while the Blitz lasted closer to eight.

Deaths during bombing raids aren’t countable in quite the same way as deaths attributable to a disease. There’s some complexity over how you attribute people’s deaths wholly or partly to Covid-19, for example, because people may have other conditions which contribute towards their death. 

Nevertheless the true number of people who’ve died with Covid-19 is likely to be higher than this, as not everyone with the disease is tested. Alternative estimates look at the overall number of “excess deaths”—how many more people have died recently than the average number of deaths for this time of year, based on an average of previous year’s figures. 

Those figures suggest closer to 60,000 people may have died, directly or indirectly, as a result of the pandemic.