End of two-metre ruling is ‘disaster waiting to happen’
Deaths in the Black Country remained far higher than normal levels in May following a spike the previous month, official figures show.
But as mortality rates across the region begin to return to pre-pandemic levels, experts have warned an imminent reduction in the two-metre social distancing rule is a “disaster waiting to happen”.
Office for National Statistics figures show more than 1,100 deaths were recorded across the Black Country during May this year – an increase of nearly 200 compared to the same month last year.
Ministers and health experts said excess mortality figures will be the most accurate measure of the overall impact of the pandemic.
This is because they capture deaths that may have been indirectly caused by the pandemic, such as by people not seeking or receiving medical attention for other conditions.
The data shows 243 deaths were recorded in Wolverhampton during May, 47 more than the number recorded in May 2019, a rise of 24 per cent.
In Dudley 282 deaths were noted during the same month this year, 15 more than last year – a rise of six per cent. In Walsall 274 deaths were recorded – an increase of 21 per cent compared to May 2019 when 48 fewer died. And in Sandwell 314 deaths were noted – 50 more than the same month the previous year, a jump of 19 per cent.
In Staffordshire, figures for Stafford showed there were 151 deaths in May this year, 38 more than last year, a rise of 34 per cent.
But in Cannock Chase there was a drop – 73 deaths were noted in May this year, seven fewer than the year previous.
The ONS announced at the end of June that the number of deaths registered in England and Wales over the week ending June 19 had fallen below normal levels for the first time since before lockdown was imposed.
It came after Boris Johnson revealed plans to scrap the two-metre social distancing rule in favour of a one-metre plus system, to allow pubs, restaurants and hairdressers to reopen on July 4.
But behavioural scientist Professor Susan Michie warned the move will effectively amount to ending physical distancing.
She said: “If you go down to one metre, actually that is about the distance that people you don’t know and are not intimate with are distant from each other just generally going around and about their business.
"So basically you have lost the whole concept of social distance.”