'Treasure each other': Hundreds of excess deaths linked to coronavirus
- Credit: Bob Harvey
Just 10 minutes after coming home from hospital, Ermitas Harvey was dead.
The 81-year-old former nurse had caught Covid-19 and had spent a couple of days in hospital before being discharged.
Shortly after arriving home in Wymondham, she collapsed after drinking a cup of tea. Her husband, Bob, held her in his arms on the bedroom floor and begged her to wake up.
“The worst bit of this is that you get flashbacks,” he said. “The shock of it hasn’t gone away. You’re seeing everything over and over again in a really bad nightmare.
“It’s like waking up in a frozen wasteland with nobody anywhere near and no directions. You lose direction and you lose purpose. We just loved each other. There is nothing worse than this.”
Ermitas was one of 730 Coronavirus deaths in Norfolk last year, and one of 1,179 excess deaths in the county revealed in an ONS report released this week. Behind each of these numbers is a human tragedy, but that can get lost in the sheer size of the figures, said Mr Harvey.
In the five years prior to 2020, the average yearly number of deaths in the county was 9,956, but last year the figure rose to 11,135 – an increase of 12pc.
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To put that in perspective, the highest previous annual increase in deaths over the last five years was 2.8pc between 2017 and 2018 - four times lower than the increase seen last year.
In Suffolk, the number of excess deaths last year was even higher, at 2,134 - 27pc more than the average over the last five years.
“You look at the numbers and it’s important to realise that every one of these people was a person with families,” said Mr Harvey.
“This is the worst thing that could happen to anybody. I just hope what happened across the country last year reminds everyone to treasure each other.”
Broken down by local authority areas, North Norfolk saw an 18pc increase in registered deaths this year, with the number rising from a five-year average of 1,423 to 1,679.
Norwich saw a 17pc rise in recorded deaths, up from an average of 1,125 to 1,315.
In Breckland, 1,790 deaths in 2020 was a 13pc increase on the average of the last five years, while South Norfolk and King's Lynn and West Norfolk saw the number of deaths rise by 11pc and 10pc respectively.
Broadland and Great Yarmouth saw the lowest increases of deaths recorded in 2020 compared to the previous five year average, with 7pc rises apiece.
Among the youngest Covid victims was 31-year-old Laura Turner-Hewitt from Diss.
Following her death, her mother, Rachel Turner-Hewitt said: “Laura was such a special, warm hearted, loving girl.”
Laura was diagnosed with a learning disability when she started school and had health issues growing up. She faced frequent hospital visits with gastric problems and osteomyelitis, a bone infection, and lived with dyspraxia.
The highest virus death toll was in King's Lynn and West Norfolk, which bore the brunt of an early outbreak in the spring. There, 198 people died from Covid.
Taking into account all causes of death in 2020, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk topped the table again, with 1,990 total deaths, meaning Covid was mentioned on 1 in 10 death certificates in the area.
The lowest number of overall deaths during the year was recorded in Great Yarmouth. There, Covid appeared on 79 of 1,260 death certificates – a total of 6pc.
In Broadland, 105 - or 7pc - of 1,601 death certificates mentioned the virus, while Breckland’s 123 Covid-related deaths also made up 7pc of the 1,790 total.
North Norfolk’s 82 deaths which mentioned Covid on the certificate made up 5pc of the 1,679 total, while South Norfolk saw 94 virus deaths out of 1,500 – 6pc of the total.
Meanwhile, Norwich saw the lowest percentage of Covid-related deaths, with 49 certificates mentioning the virus out of a total of 1,315, making 4pc of the total amount.
One early victim from the city was actor, writer and performer Clive Stubbs.
Nationally, nearly 697,000 deaths were registered in 2020, compared with an average of nearly 606,000 each year between 2015 and 2019.
The 91,000 excess deaths represent an increase of about 15pc. This is the largest increase in a single year since 1940.