COVID-19 has been overtaken as the leading cause of death in England and Wales for the first time since October 2020.

The virus, which has killed more than 150,000 across the UK over the past year, was overtaken by Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and ischaemic (coronary) heart disease, in March.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in both England and Wales in March, accounting for 9.2 per cent of all fatalities registered in England and 6.3 per cent in Wales.

The virus was the leading cause of death each month from November to February.

The figures also showed deaths due to Covid fell month-on-month by 75 per cent from February to March.

The leading cause of death in March was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in England, accounting for 10.1 per cent of registered deaths, followed by ischaemic heart disease, while in Wales it was the other way round.

Provisional ONS figures show there were 45,567 deaths registered in England in March, 956 fewer than in the same month last year but 656 more than the five-year average from 2015-19.

The number of dementia/Alzheimer's, ischaemic heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and flu and pneumonia - the most common causes of death apart from Covid-19 - were all still below the five year average in the month of March.

Between January 1 and March 31 in England, 154,020 deaths occurred in England - 10 per cent more than the five-year average - and 43,715 (28.4 per cent) of those deaths were caused by Covid-19.