Speaking to the Commons public administration committee, Sir Ian said the ONS would be producing research looking at four different categories of death, including the impact of an economic downturn.

These include direct fatalities, indirect deaths caused by the NHS prioritising resources, and longer term deaths related to fewer people being screened for diseases such as cancer

On the economy, he said: “If – and I stress, if – we end up with an ‘L-shaped’ recession as opposed to a ‘V-shape’ where we come back out quite quickly, an ‘L-shape’ over a long period of time could lead to a significant number of deaths as a result of people being pushed into poverty or into long-term unemployment.

“We know that people in the lowest deciles of income have higher mortality rates in this country, and if you increase that you are likely to see an increase in deaths.”

During the hearing, Sir Ian also said that while Covid-19 deaths were now falling in hospitals, care homes and the community, the rate of decline was not occurring as “we would perhaps like”. 

To provide more up-to-date information on fatalities, he suggested the Government should now legislate to require all deaths to be recorded electronically within 24 hours.

And he warned that “we need to be worried as a nation” about the potential of reseeding the virus in the population as a result of coming out of lockdown too quickly, which in turn could see the pandemic return in a second wave.

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