FIGURES have laid bare the “huge impact” of Covid 19 on the death toll in the region over the last year.

The Public Health England statistics demonstrate how ‘excess deaths’ have differed from a pre-pandemic year.

They show that County Durham recorded a 22.8 per cent increase on previous years, with a 19 per cent increase in Darlington and 10.3 per cent in North Yorkshire.

The data compares the number of deaths registered during the last year with how many were predicted based on previous mortality rates.

County Durham saw 6,949 deaths from any cause registered between March 21 last year – just days before the UK’s first lockdown – and March 19 this year.

That was 1,288 more than the 5,661 predicted based on the previous five years.

It means there were 22.8 per cent more deaths than expected – higher than the England average of 20 per cent.

Darlington saw 1,372 deaths from any cause in the same time period – 219 more than the 1,153 predicted.

In North Yorkshire, there were 7,253 deaths, 677 more than predicted. This was sthe ninth-smallest percentage increase of the 149 council areas across the country.

So-called ‘excess deaths’ are considered a better measure of the overall impact of Covid-19 than simply looking at mortality directly linked to the virus, as they capture deaths that may have been indirectly caused by the crisis, and are not affected by changes in the level of testing.

Over the same period, there were 1,503 deaths in County Durham with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate. The figure for Darlington was 275, with 1,145 deaths in North Yorkshire.

Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s director of public health, said: “I would like to express my sincerest condolences to anyone who has lost a loved one, family member, friend, partner, or colleague in the last year, as a result of Covid-19 or other reasons.

“These are more than just statistics, but people who are greatly missed by those who love them.

“Excess deaths (expressed as a percentage of expected deaths) have been slightly higher in County Durham than the UK average, and we have developed a local outbreak management plan with a range of actions to reduce the level of infections due to Covid-19.

“We are now seeing reducing infection rates, and that is thanks to everyone’s hard work in following the current rules that are in place and practicing public health guidance, such as washing hands regularly, wearing a face covering and social distancing.

“These efforts, combined with the ongoing vaccination programme, are really important to help save further lives and protect people from the virus.”

Nationally, more than 100,000 excess deaths were recorded, while there were 129,000 with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate.

Dave Finch, senior fellow at charity the Health Foundation, said the two figures differed because Covid-19 is mentioned on death certificates even if it is not the leading cause of death.

He added: “However, what is clear is the huge scale of the impact of Covid-19 on the number of deaths and that the impact has tended to be greater in more deprived areas, reflecting the pattern of existing health inequalities.”

The 13 places to see the biggest increases in registered deaths compared to those expected were all in London.

Newham saw the largest rise, at 53.7 per cent, while at the other end of the spectrum, registered deaths were 2.7 per cent higher than expected in Devon.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said there were “complex and deep-rooted” reasons why certain areas have been hit harder by the pandemic than others.

These factors would have included age in the community, ethnicity, levels of deprivation, and what jobs people do.

She added: “These are all factors that can make people more vulnerable to Covid-19.

“The worst affected communities are likely to have felt the impact of several disparities combined.

“However, we also know that by sticking to the rules, and having the vaccine when offered one, we can all do our part to help protect ourselves and those around us wherever we live.”