The UK has repeatedly set and broken new records for the number of Covid-19 deaths reported in a single day throughout January.
Amid the second wave of the pandemic, these escalating totals have been echoed by the media and widely shared as grim markers of the extent to which the virus has ravaged the nation.
But while it’s important to pay attention to these daily totals, they don’t tell us the whole story.
How the data works
The government presents daily deaths in two ways on its dashboard – the first, deaths within 28 days of positive test recorded by date of death and the second, deaths within 28 days of positive test recorded by date reported.
The second of these is the number that gets reported by the media each day, and is not a reflection of how many people actually have died in the previous 24 hours, which is information that takes longer to establish.
For example, 1,000 people could be reported dead in a single day, but those deaths could have actually taken place on any day of the pandemic, and only just been reported as Covid-19 deaths.
The most recent record for a daily report was set on Tuesday, which saw 1,610 deaths recorded in a single 24-hour period.
But if we’re looking at what the actual deadliest day of the pandemic is, we need to know when those people died, which this figure alone doesn’t tell us.
So when did the most people actually die?
Despite much greater daily totals of deaths reported being announced right now, during the second wave of the pandemic, the current record for the number of Covid-19 death by actual date of death is still April 8, which saw 1,073 – one of which was reported as recently as this week.
Even though more than nine months have now passed since that date new deaths are continually added as the records are updated and...