The variations in death rates of people with coronavirus in different parts of Norfolk could have been caused because the epidemic arrived in the west of the county before lockdown began.

Eastern Daily Press: Dan Roper, Liberal Democrat county councillor. Pic: Liberal Democrats.Dan Roper, Liberal Democrat county councillor. Pic: Liberal Democrats. (Image: Liberal Democrats)

Norwich has the third-lowest death rate in the UK when coronavirus-related deaths are ranked by local authority, figures show.

The city had recorded 15 deaths from COVID-19 up to Friday, May 15, meaning its death rate stands at 10.7 per 100,000 people.

But data, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showed King’s Lynn and West Norfolk has the highest death rate in Norfolk and Waveney, with 77.9 per 100,000, following 118 deaths.

Elsewhere in the region, South Norfolk has a death rate of 29.8. Great Yarmouth’s is 33.2, North Norfolk’s 37.2, Broadland’s 40.5 and Breckland’s 50.

And Norfolk’s director of public health has given a potential explanation for why there have been more deaths from coronavirus in the west of the county.

A question on the variations across Norfolk was posed at a meeting of the county council’s scrutiny meeting by Liberal Democrat councillor Dan Roper, who said it seemed “counter-intuitive” that there were fewer deaths in an urban place like Norwich than in more rural areas.

And public health director Dr Louise Smith said: “It’s early days to really know. You’re absolutely right, we are seeing high numbers in the west and Breckland and lower numbers in Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

“We haven’t finished the analyses or the adjustment for age - that’s definitely some of the explanation - and deprivation.

“I also haven’t yet got the data for the testing, so we don’t know whether there is an impact on testing coverage.

“Every area in Norfolk, when we adjust for age is below the England average.

“But, clearly, there are more cases in the west than the east and we don’t have fully have an explanation for that.

“One of the possible explanations might well be that the epidemic reached the west of the county earlier. “We know London was about seven to 14 days ahead of the rest of the country, so it may well be that the epidemic was more advanced in the west of the county before the lockdown came, but we don’t know.”

Mr Roper also said that many now considered the excess death figure as the most reliable figure for establishing the true picture of coronavirus’s impact. He asked when a figure for that in Norfolk would be available.

Dr Smith said: “We are getting good data from the Office for National Statistics on deaths. We are monitoring the all cause deaths and we can compare them to the five year rolling average, which would give us an excess.

“It’s certainly something we could bring forward is some more data analysis.

“The early indications are that the number of deaths from all causes has gone up and is coming back down again. It has been a very small and short peak, which is very welcome.

“The pattern and the proportion of deaths form all causes looks very similar here in Norfolk to those ascribed to coronavirus on the death certificates.”