Coronavirus has killed three times as many people as influenza and pneumonia this year, official data reveals, as the Government tightens restrictions to prevent a second wave of the virus.
Covid-19 was listed as the underlying cause of death in 48,168 fatalities recorded in England and Wales between January and August this year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), while influenza caused just 394 deaths in the same time period, and pneumonia - often caused by the flu - was behind 13,619 deaths.
But the common diseases were mentioned on 25 per cent more death certificates than the virus. While Covid-19 was added to 52,327 death certificates, influenza and pneumonia appeared on as many as 70,287.
When a condition is mentioned on a death certificate it means doctors consider it to have contributed to someone's death, but to have not been the main factor that lead to the end of their life.
Mortality rates for the virus were 'significantly higher' for all age groups than those for influenza and pneumonia, according to statisticians. Those aged 85 and older were found to be at highest risk, with a fatality rate of 1,243.9 per 100,000 compared to 862.5 per 100,000 from pneumonia and influenza.
After the pandemic struck in March the daily number of fatalities from coronavirus remained above those from pneumonia and influenza in England and Wales until July, when the virus began to fade away. The latest figures from the ONS, for August 31, show 14 deaths were caused by influenza and pneumonia while five were linked to coronavirus.
But there are fears that rises in Covid-19 linked deaths may have flipped this balance, after the seven-day average for the number of deaths has more than quadrupled in 25 days from 13 on September 16 to 53 on October 7.
Deaths from pneumonia and influenza were seven times below the five-year average, which shows 97,674 fatalities where the diseases are listed as the underlying cause are expected each year. Experts say this is because lockdown curbs to stop the spread of coronavirus have also hampered the transmission of other diseases.
Statisticians said pneumonia and influenza were counted together as cases of pneumonia are often caused by the influenza virus.
The report from the ONS came after Facebook and Twitter were forced to place a warning on a post by the American President, which claimed people should 'learn to live with' coronavirus as it is 'far less lethal' than the flu. His allegations were immediately debunked by experts, and have been disproven by the ONS report.
This graph shows the total number of deaths annually (blue line) and those from pneumonia and influenza (green line). The number of deaths due to Covid-19 has been estimated based on available data and compared to previous years. It is represented by the black line running across the graph