HEREFORDSHIRE'S overall death rate rose in April, figures reveal, despite significant falls in most areas of the country.

Health think tank the Nuffield Trust welcomed the low mortality recorded across the country for the month, but said it must be seen in the context of the high death toll already suffered due to the coronavirus.

Office for National Statistics data shows 173 deaths from all causes were registered in Herefordshire in April.

At a rate of 850 per 100,000 people, that was higher than 839 the previous month.

But it was still a significant fall from April last year when the pandemic reached its first peak – 228 deaths were registered during the month, at a rate of 1,153 per 100,000.

The rates are adjusted to account for differences in the age structure of the population to allow comparisons over time and between areas.

Of the deaths registered in April this year, Covid-19 was recorded as the underlying cause for three – down from 44 a year earlier, and four the previous month.

Across England, 38,899 deaths were registered from all causes in April, at a rate of 851 per 100,000 people – the lowest level for the month since national records began in 2001.

It was also the lowest rate of deaths since August, after the first wave of the virus, when the figure stood at 746.

Covid-19 dropped from the third most common cause of death in March to the ninth most common in April – although the virus was still the leading cause in the first four months of the year.

Chris Sherlaw-Johnson, senior fellow at the Nuffield Trust, said the low mortality rate recorded for April was good news, and that he hoped to see the trend continue with the vaccination roll-out.

“While it appears that mortality for this time of year has reached record lows, this has to be taken in the context of the tragically high mortality seen at the turn of the year,” he added.

“It may also be the case that social distancing measures and the steps taken to protect the most vulnerable from Covid have had a knock-on impact on mortality from other infectious diseases, bringing numbers down.”

A recent Public Health England report showed that coronavirus case rates remained stable nationally in the week to May 16.

It also found that the hospital admission rate related to the virus had fallen since the previous week.

“While it is hugely encouraging that the prevalence of the virus is currently stable with hospitalisations and deaths continuing to fall, we are concerned about the variant first detected in India and are constantly monitoring the situation,” said Dr Yvonne Doyle, PHE’s medical director.

“Until we know more it’s vital we don’t let our guard down too soon and remain cautious.”

Dr Doyle urged people to keep up with actions known to control the virus, such as getting tested if they show any symptoms and isolating if returning from abroad.