Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
21 July 2021

Who has been hit hardest by the UK’s third wave of Covid-19?

More than 60 per cent of those who died of the Delta variant had received at least one vaccine dose, and more young people are being hospitalised.

By Polly Bindman

The much-anticipated “freedom day” arrived this week as three of the UK’s most senior ministers – Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid – joined hundreds and thousands of other people in self-isolation after coming into contact with Covid-19. 

To some, England’s reopening is a major risk given that deaths and hospitalisation rates are once again rising (by 60 per cent and 39 per cent respectively in the past seven days). To others, that deaths and hospitalisations remain low relative to case numbers – thanks, chiefly, to the vaccine roll-out – means the balance of risk has shifted. But who is right? Here, the New Statesman looks at where we are now and how the current wave differs from those that preceded it.

The UK is clearly in a better position now with regards to deaths than it was at the same point during the second wave (see graph). Though cases have risen sharply, deaths and hospitalisations have risen more slowly than last time. 

This might appear reassuring, but there is a major caveat: during previous waves the number of cases was curtailed by lockdowns and restrictions. This time, restrictions are being removed. Daily new cases have risen from around 3,000 at the start of June to roughly 50,000 on “freedom day”. Vaccines may have weakened the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths, but they have not completely broken it. 

Here is who has been most affected by the third wave so far.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Recent data shows that the gap between over-75s and under-75s dying from Covid is narrowing. This could be seen as positive news as it reflects the success of the vaccine, but with only 68 per cent of the adult population having received both doses of the vaccine, those in younger age groups in particular remain less protected from the virus. Recent figures suggest that London – with one of the youngest age profiles in the UK – has the lowest vaccine uptake in England, with more than a third of Londoners not having had their first dose.

Content from our partners
Are we there yet with electric cars? The EV story – with Wejo
Sherif Tawfik: The Middle East and Africa are ready to lead on the climate
How deception can become your friend

An important factor is that while vaccines are effective at reducing the risk of death, they don’t prevent it entirely. This is particularly true for those who have not had both jabs. A recent report by Public Health England showed that 163 of the 257 people (63.4 per cent) who died of the Delta variant within 28 days of a positive Covid test between 1 February and 21 June had received at least one vaccine dose.

Hospital admission rates are also increasing across all age groups, particularly for those between the ages of 18 and 55. During the current wave, hospitalisations have risen faster, relative to cases, than deaths. That is an important consideration, too: preventing death is not the only aim of an anti-Covid strategy. Too many people in hospital could overwhelm emergency health services and have profound consequences for other elective procedures, and forms of care, at a time when the NHS is only beginning to clear its pandemic-related backlog. 

The total number of young people with Covid in hospital has increased during the third wave. From December to February, the age bracket with the highest total number of hospital admissions and inpatients were 75- to 84-year-olds, but from May to July, this changed to the 18-to-54 age bracket. Although the latter group is larger, this still marks a distinct shift from previous months.

At present, England is suffering the highest rate of deaths and cases. Although at the end of June, Scotland’s case rate was almost double that of England’s, a sharp reversal has taken place in recent weeks. On 18 July England had 73 cases per 100,000 people whereas Scotland had 41. Northern Ireland’s rate was 46 per 100,000, while Wales only had 28 cases per 100,000 people.

Hospital admission rates and deaths have increased across all regions, although the highest concentration of hospital admissions is in the North East, whereas the North West has the highest number of deaths.

Topics in this article :