False death figures go viral

9 February 2021
What was claimed

Up to week 47 of 2020, there were only 511,883 deaths in England and Wales, 20,000 fewer than the number of deaths in 2019.

Our verdict

False. Up to and including week 47 there were 542,463 deaths registered in England and Wales. Across the whole year there were 608,002 deaths registered, 77,000 more than in 2019.

A post on Instagram lists the number of deaths in England and Wales each year from 2013 to 2019. It claims that up to week 47 of 2020 there were only 511,883 deaths which is “almost 20,000 less deaths since last year.”

It asks “so exactly where is this pandemic”.

The figures for 2013 to 2019 are correct. The figure for 2020 is wrong. 

Up to and including week 47 of 2020 (ending on 20 November), there were 542,463  deaths registered in England and Wales (529,928 up to but not including week 47). By comparison, there were 530,841 registered in the whole of 2019.

Put another way, despite efforts to restrict the impact of Covid-19, the 2020 death toll had already surpassed the 2019 death toll with over a month left of the year.

Data published since these false figures went viral in December shows that there were 608,002 deaths registered in the whole of 2020, 77,000 more than in 2019.

It’s unclear where the 511,883 figure came from as it does not appear to correspond to any data in the tables. 

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because the number given for 2020 is incorrect.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.