Paramedics and hospital staff attend to a patient outside the Royal London Hospital in London (file photo) (Image: PA)

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The number of excess deaths in the UK in 2020 rose to the highest level since World War Two amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There were almost 697,000 deaths in the UK, close to 91,000 more than the average over the previous five years, according to the BBC.

The rise in excess deaths by 15% meant it was the biggest increase for more than 75 years.

Richard Murray, chief executive of The King's Fund, told the BBC : "The UK has one of the highest rates of excess deaths in the world, with more excess deaths per million people than most other European countries or the US.

"It will take a public inquiry to determine exactly what went wrong, but mistakes have been made.

Paramedics and hospital staff attend to a patient outside the Royal London Hospital (file photo)
(Image: PA)

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"In a pandemic, mistakes cost lives. Decisions to enter lockdown have consistently come late, with the government failing to learn from past mistakes or the experiences of other countries."

Figures released today show that the number of excess deaths that have occurred in the UK since the start of the coronavirus pandemic has now passed 88,000.

There were 79,739 excess deaths in England and Wales registered between March 7 2020 and January 1 2021, according to figures published by the ONS on Tuesday.

Covid-19 deaths in the UK
(Image: Press Association Images)

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The latest figures from the National Records of Scotland show there were 6,701 excess deaths in Scotland between March 16 2020 and January 3 2021, while there were 1,929 excess deaths in Northern Ireland between March 14 2020 and January 1 2021, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency.

Together, these totals mean that so far 88,369 excess deaths have taken place in the UK since the outbreak of Covid-19.

The number of excess deaths in 2020 was said to be the highest increase since WW2 (file photo)
(Image: The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

The number of excess deaths that have occurred in private homes in England and Wales since the start of the coronavirus pandemic has now passed 40,000.

Excess deaths are the number of deaths that are above the average for the corresponding period in the previous five years.

There were 40,114 excess deaths in homes in England and Wales registered between March 7 2020 and January 1 2021, according to the ONS.

Of this total, 3,881 – 10% – were deaths involving Covid-19.

Any death involving Covid-19 is counted as an excess death because Covid-19 did not exist before 2020.