Up to 21,000 people have died because of unintended consequences of lockdown – many due to a lack of access to healthcare, according to a shocking study.
In the eight weeks after restrictions were put in place an average of almost 2,700 extra people died a week than would be usual for the time of year, despite Covid-19 not contributing to their deaths.
Many of these victims died because they were unable to get urgent healthcare, it emerged last night.
There were warnings from doctors at the beginning of lockdown in March that there was a sharp drop in hospital attendance for emergencies such as heart attacks.
It was reported that at one point the number of people going to A&E had halved, while cancer referrals had plunged by 70 per cent.
Other studies have already suggested that a lack of access to urgent cancer care and a drop in referrals could lead to an extra 35,000 deaths a year.
An earlier paper published in The Lancet Oncology found some lives will be 20 years shorter due to cancers that have been missed.
This new study has raised the possibility that the wider impact of lockdown killed more people than the virus.
The finding comes from an analysis of Office of National Statistics figures by experts at the Universities of Sheffield and Loughborough, working with consultancy firm Economic Insight.
They estimate that there were 21,544 extra deaths, an average of 2,693 a week, during the first eight weeks of restrictions.
There could be further knock-on effects on the mortality rate linked to the ongoing social distancing restrictions, the report found.
Sam Williams, director of Economic Insight, told The Daily Telegraph the research aimed to ‘more robustly quantify the number of Covid-19 deaths in England and Wales’.
He said: ‘In total, lockdown has killed more than 21,000 people in net terms, that would have lived without a lockdown.’
Mr Williams added that there are flaws in the current system of tracking coronavirus deaths.
Official figures state that across the UK 45,961 have died from coronavirus.
However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has set up an urgent review into how Public Health England has recorded deaths from the virus following concerns that figures were ‘exaggerated’.
Academics from the University of Oxford said a number of people who have been reported as dying from coronavirus had recovered but then died of other causes.
In England, anyone who has ever tested positive for the disease counts as a coronavirus death when they die.
However, in Scotland and Wales there is a 28-day cut-off period for those who test positive to be recorded as a coronavirus death.