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Scientists among professions with fewest Covid deaths

As the UK passes 100,000 coronavirus deaths, ONS data shed light on the grim toll

Science and engineering professionals have suffered some of the lowest Covid-19 death rates, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics.

The news comes as the UK’s Covid-19 death toll passed 100,000 this week, underscoring the tragic and deadly nature of the coronavirus pandemic that continues to run rampant.

“One hundred thousand deaths is a grim milestone for the UK to reach,” said Mark Woolhouse, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Edinburgh.

Many scientists have been working throughout the national lockdowns, both directly in efforts against the pandemic—developing tests, vaccines and drugs—and on other research.

But they have been one of the least hard-hit professions, in categories tracked by the Office for National Statistics. 


The latest ONS data, released on 25 January, show nearly 8,000 Covid-19 deaths in the working age population of England and Wales registered between 9 March and 28 December 2020.

People who worked in healthcare and social care occupations had significantly higher rates of death than the general population.

The death rate was 77.9 and 27.8 per 100,000 men and women in caring personal service occupations, respectively. In health professions the rate was 34.2 and 18.1 for men and women, respectively.

But science, research, engineering and technology professionals had some of the lowest death rates per 100,000 people, at 13.5 for men, and 7.3 for women. 


A similarly relatively low death rate was found for science, engineering and technology associate professionals: 15.7 for men, accounting for 45 deaths. For women in this group, it lists 8 deaths, too low to provide a rate.

“[The] analysis shows that jobs with regular exposure to Covid-19 and those working in close proximity to others continue to have higher Covid-19 death rates when compared with the rest of the working age population,” said Ben Humberstone, head of health analysis and life events at the ONS.

“Our findings do not prove that the rates of death involving Covid-19 are caused by differences in occupational exposure.”  


Grief, but further deaths expected

Many scientists have expressed grief following the news of the scale of death, but also warned that many further deaths can be expected.

“This number are 100,000 grieving families and many, many thousands who are alive but suffering from long-term ill effects,” said Jim Naismith, a biologist at the University of Oxford.

“Unfortunately, there are thousands more deaths to come. We owe the families left behind that when the vaccine has brought the virus under control, to identify where we have succeeded, where we have failed and what needs to change.”

“Today we grieve for all those that have died from Covid-19 and with those who have lost loved ones,” said Gail Carson, from the University of Oxford. “Tomorrow, we need to focus on trying to prevent new cases, prevent more deaths and prevent more long Covid.”