Comparison of COVID-19 related death rates NI, England and Wales, Scotland and RoI up until 4 July 2020

Press/Media: Expert Comment


Radio interview with Q Radio


Comparison of the COVID-related death rates in NI, RoI, England and Wales and Scotland through to 4 July 2020.

Based on this press release:

Release: Immediate Thursday 23 JULY 2020

Grim Stats: COVID death rates across the Two Islands- Scotland is NOT doing that well

Dr Esmond Birnie, Senior Economist, Ulster University Business School

“Comparison of death rates in terms of COVID-related in all settings

Thursday’s PM’s visit to Scotland brings to fore the question of how the various parts of the UK have been impacted by the virus. How effective has been the policy response in each nation? A comparison of the cumulative COVID-related death rate is interesting but not as straightforward as might be hoped even when comparing 4 reasonably similar jurisdictions: Scotland, England & Wales, Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland.


There remains uncertainty as to how far the data include all deaths related to COVID, it is unclear to what extent like is really being compared to like, and there are lags in terms of how up-to-date the results are. Nevertheless, here is a comparison, as up-to-date as possible, until 4 July 2020 (a wider and probably more realistic definition is used as opposed to the narrow definition where there is a positive test result for the virus, i.e. deaths where COVID-19 is mentioned on the death certificate). The relative positions of the four jurisdictions are pretty clear:







Comparison of COVID death rates for Scotland, England & Wales, NI and RoI and GB, cumulative to 4 July 2020



Cumulative until, i.e. registered by

COVID deaths

Population figure used

COVID death rate per million

Pop-ulation density

2018, persons per km2


COVID-19 on death certificate. NISRA (23 July 2020, “Deaths registered- Dashboard”).

4 July 2020


1.8937m (NISRA projection for June 2019, 6 May 2020)




COVID deaths across all settings- those with a positive test for the virus plus “probable and suspected”. Covid-19 Ireland Datahub (23 July 2020:

4 July 2020


4.9215m (CSO projection for April 2019, 27 Aug. 2020)




COVID-19 on death certificate. ONS (17 July 2020, “Deaths involving COVID-19, England and Wales”).

4 July 2020


59.43984 m(CSO, 2019)




COVID-19 on death certificate. National Records of Scotland (8 July 2020, “Deaths involving COVID-19, Week 27, 29 June 2020- 5 July”).

5 July 2020


5.463667m (CSO, 2019)




  • Scotland’s rate is lower than that in England but not by a very wide margin- about 90% of the average for England and Wales. Given that Scotland’s population density is less than a fifth that of England and Wales’ the gap in favour of Scotland might have been expected to be larger. Indeed, Scotland should be further advantage compared to England given in proportional terms England’s Black and Minority Ethnic population at 14% is several times that of Scotland’s (4%). There is growing evidence that BAME COVID-19 death rate has been disproportionally high.

  • The death rates in NI and RoI were 52% and 42% of the rate for England and Wales. However, as in the case of Scotland it could be argued that both should have been advantaged compared to England given a much lower population density.

  • These up-to-date comparisons confirm earlier analysis based on an alternative measure of the impact of COVID-19 (excess deaths compared previous recent death rates) through to 24 May 2020 conducted by The Financial Times (2 June 2020, “Scotland’s coronavirus record flattered by contrasts with south”). At that point Scotland had an excess deaths per million of 841 compared to about 900 in England but “only” about 450 in NI. But, significantly, excess deaths were much, much lower in countries such Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Norway.”



Period23 Jul 2020

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleComparison of COVID-19 related death rates NI, England and Wales, Scotland and RoI through to 4 July 2020
    Degree of recognitionRegional
    Media name/outletQ Radio
    Media typeRadio
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    DescriptionRadio interview Q Radio
    Producer/AuthorEsmond Birnie
    PersonsEsmond Birnie


  • Northern Ireland economy, political impact on economy, devolution, devolved policies, economic policy, economic growth, UK growth
  • COVID- response
  • COVID-19
  • England
  • Scotland
  • Republic of Ireland
  • death rates