Britain could have been hit harder by Covid-19 than other European nations because the past two winter flu outbreaks have only been mild, according to a study.
Researchers say influenza kills the same groups of people as the coronavirus, with both illnesses posing the greatest danger to the elderly and those with underlying conditions.
Public Health England statistics show around 20,000 excess deaths – those of any cause that happen above average – occur from influenza each year.
But only 1,700 extra fatalities were recorded during the 2018/19 outbreak, said lead author Dr Chris Hope who claimed data showed the 2019/20 season was also ‘very mild’.
It means more than 30,000 people in England alone were alive at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic who would have been expected to die in the previous two flu seasons.
The death rate from COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Europe appears to be linked to low-intensity flu seasons in the past two years as the same people are vulnerable, says a working paper by Dr Chris Hope, Emeritus Reader in Policy Modelling at Cambridge Judge Business School.