How did COVID effect English Registration Services?

Over the last few months we’ve explored the effect of the COVID pandemic on UK demographic data and registration services by country (see our previous analysis at the bottom of the screen).

In our last blog in the series, we will review the trends for English registration services during the COVID pandemic, and compare statistics for birth and death registrations to 2019’s pre-pandemic year.

Births: 587,989 (2020) | 611,766 (2019) ONS

Total births in England have been steadily declining in recent years like the rest of the UK as shown in the graph below. 2020 however saw the trend accelerate, with total births falling by almost 24,000 compared to 2019.

Extracting the data just for births in England, we can see that since 2016, births have steadily decreased year-on-year before the pandemic year. Starting at 664,000 in 2016 and dropping by over 2% each year subsequent year, the difference between 2019 and 2020 saw this grow to a 4% decrease, representing an 11% drop over the displayed time period.

A reason for this significant drop between 2019 and 2020 could be tied into the delay in recording births in England. As telephone death registrations became prioritised and some services suspended their acceptance of other appointment types, birth registration backlogs had grown. As seen below with deaths rising again in their fourth quarter, there’s a chance that lockdowns have exacerbated the decrease this year in particular.

Total births in England between 2016-2020

Looking at births data by region, we can see that though the COVID pandemic saw birth volumes drop to their lowest across all areas, the trends remain similar to previous years. Between 2020 and 2019, birth volumes changed most significantly in London (6,000), the North West (3,400) and the East of England (2,700).

Reviewing our date from 2016 forward however, the areas that have seen the biggest changes in birth volumes over the entire period have been London (17,000), the South East (11,000) and the North West (9,400) respectively. Notably the North East has seen the smallest decline in births, with only a drop of around 3,500 over this period.

Overview: Births registered have seen a significant decrease this year as a result of multiple lockdowns and the prioritisation of death bookings. The most effected areas include London during the pandemic year, though it’ll be interesting to see if birth registrations rise for the first time in 2021 to show the extent of 2020 as an anomaly.

Note: As births figures are merged with Wales in government publications, we did not separate birth volumes into quarter for this analysis.


Provisional births in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (

Death: 576,324 (2020) | 483,337 (2019) ONS

Deaths in England saw a significant rise during the pandemic year, rising a staggering 19.2% on 2019 (92,987). Looking at the ONS’s weekly registered deaths report we can see how England’s registration services managed death registrations on a quarterly basis. Much like graphs in our other studies, the shape of the graph is consistent with rising cases in the UK, namely in the second and fourth quarter, and a decrease in the third.

What’s noticeable in this instance is that deaths registered actually fell below the 2019 value for quarter 3, indicating a strong response by registrars to record deaths as they happened and preventing a backlog that could be seen in later quarters.

Looking at the values individually, quarter 1 began with a small increase on it’s predecessor, rising 2%. This rose significantly for quarter 2 in the wake of lockdown and a surge in the first COVID cases, jumping a staggering 47% to 175,000. This was helped by registrars ability to register deaths by telephone due to emergency legislation, improving the speed of registrations and preventing COVID deaths from creating a backlog.

Quarter 3 saw the relaxing of lockdown, with deaths actually reducing in comparison to it’s 2019 figure by 8,000. This is before quarter 4, in which England entered a second lockdown due to rising cases. Values in this last quarter tend to rise as shown by the 2019 value, though during the pandemic year, this rose significantly by around 23,000.

Overview: From the data set, England based registrars handled a significant volume of death registrations as a result of the COVID pandemic both increasing deaths and the adaptions services made to prevent direct contact. Volumes rose in the latter quarter as expected but made an interesting reduction in quarter 3, likely the result of lower cases and the efforts of registrars in preventing a backlog early on.


Deaths registered in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (

Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional – Office for National Statistics (

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