UK coronavirus death toll exceeds 26,000 after care home fatalities included

Additional 3,811 fatalities outside of hospitals counted by government for first time, taking UK’s death toll to third largest in the world

Chris Baynes
Wednesday 29 April 2020 18:11
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UK coronavirus death toll exceeds 26,000 after including care home fatalities

The UK’s coronavirus death toll has risen above 26,000 after fatalities outside hospitals were included by the government for the first time.

A total of 26,097 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after contracting Covid-19, Public Health England said.

That figures includes 765 deaths registered in the 24 hours to 5pm on Tuesday, and means the UK has the third highest coronavirus death toll in the world after the US and Italy.

The new method of reporting includes an additional 3,811 earlier deaths, which had not previously been counted in the government’s total.

Public Health England’s medical director, Dr Yvonne Doyle, said: “Every death from Covid-19 is a tragedy.

“Tracking the daily death count is vital to help us understand the impact of the disease.

“These more complete data will give us a fuller and more up-to-date picture of deaths in England and will inform the government’s approach as we continue to protect the public.”

The government had been criticised for excluding care home and community deaths from the toll announced each day.

Helen Whately, minister for care, said the new method of reporting figures would help the government “better understand” the impact of the outbreak.

Figures for coronavirus-related deaths in care homes and the community had previously been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Care Quality Commission. Those numbers included all fatalities in which Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, but not all had been confirmed through testing.

Dr Doyle said: “It will remain the case that ONS data, which publishes every week with data from 11 days ago, includes suspected cases where a test has not taken place.

“ONS figures will therefore continue to include more deaths than our daily series.”

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, she warned the confirmed death toll for care homes was likely to be revised up.

“In due course, those deaths sadly may occur on death certificates, so we may expect more than we are seeing at the moment, yes,” Dr Doyle said.

Experts warned this week that care home deaths may not yet have peaked, with one suggesting there could be as many fatalities in homes as in hospitals.

Earlier in the outbreak, as part of efforts to free up NHS beds, care homes were told they would have to take hospital patients even if they tested positive.

Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and a practising GP, said he could not understand the clinical reason for this and warned care homes may have been “seeded” with coronavirus.

He described Covid-19 in care homes as a “perfect storm” with poor-quality staff protective equipment fuelling a “cascade” of infections.

Dr Doyle said the care home sector was the ”most complex”, with 16,000 homes and the need for local intelligence to identify where there were issues.

She added: ”There is a huge national and local endeavour to not just test, which is very important, but also understand the measures that make a difference in care homes and to look at that in a very rapid way, looking at the evidence, so that we can put in place measures that protect people.”

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