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UK now has highest coronavirus death toll in Europe

New figures from Office of National Statistics for England and Wales, alongside Scotland and Northern Ireland, shows death toll of 32,313

Kate Ng
Tuesday 05 May 2020 11:01 BST
All you need to know from the latest UK coronavirus briefing

Over 30,000 deaths involving Covid-19 have occurred in the UK since the start of the pandemic, the highest official toll yet reported in Europe.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed 29,710 deaths linked to coronavirus had taken place in England and Wales as of 2 May.

Including deaths for Scotland and Northern Ireland, the toll on this measure now amounts to 32,375.

According to the ONS report, of the 27,356 deaths registered up to 24 April, 71.8 per cent (19,643 deaths) occurred in hospital. 5,890 deaths took place in care homes, 1,306 in private homes and 301 in hospices. This represents a fall of 12.6 per cent in hospital deaths, but an increase of 2,500 deaths in care home deaths compared to the week before.

Deaths involving Covid-19 in England that occurred up to 24 April, but were registered up to 2 May, stood at 28,272, said the report. In comparison, the number of deaths reported by the Department of Health and Social Care was 21,399 and NHS England showed 19,033 hospital deaths.

The ONS figures include deaths in hospitals and care homes. Previously, daily figures on new coronavirus cases and deaths published by Public Health England (PHE) included only hospital deaths.

PHE only began reporting Covid-19-related deaths in all settings at the end of April, in order to complement figures released by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the ONS.

The data revealed that the number of deaths registrations had fallen by 350 from the week ending on 17 April, but the figures are still double the five-year average for this period.

In London, over half (50.5 per cent) of all deaths registered involved coronavirus. The northwest and northeast of England also had a high proportion of coronavirus-related deaths, which accounted for 38.8 per cent and 38 per cent of fatalities in the regions respectively.

Coronavirus was involved in 36.7 per cent (413) of all deaths registered in Wales in the same period.

No deaths were recorded in anyone aged 14 or under in the week ending 24 April, but the highest proportion of deaths – 40.2 per cent – were among those aged 75 to 84 years of age.

In light of the new figures, the ONS said that the numbers should be viewed in the context of other countries recording deaths differently.

Mr Stripe said on Twitter: "UK death registrations data is the fastest, most frequent and most in depth than any other stats agency.

"But death registrations data is what will eventually allow us to compare. [For example], ISTAT (Italian stats agency) yesterday brought out data for deaths in March. It showed 25k excess deaths and almost double those attributed to COVID previously.

"We've just reported up to 24 April. There are many other examples of where our data is quicker and more detailed."

Nick Stripe, head of health analysis at the ONS, said: “Based on actual date of deaths in all settings, so far there were 1,000 plus Covid-related deaths from 4-18 April. 8 April is currently the highest total – 1,318 deaths. [Death data] for later dates are still coming in due to lags in death registrations.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the latest figures showed an “appalling loss of life” and called for the government’s PPE ordering system to be “fully rolled out as soon as possible”.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said in a statement: “This appalling loss of life in our care homes and communities is another stark reminder of just how much more must be done to protect our most elderly and vulnerable.

“Every death from this virus is a tragedy, leaving behind family and friends in mourning. Social care is the front line in the fight against coronavirus and we need to do all we can to shield people in care homes and those receiving care in their own homes.

“Any national plans by the government to track and trace coronavirus needs to build upon councils’ existing local knowledge and skills on the ground, given their experience in their communities through local services such as environmental health, public health including sexual health services and infection control nurses.”

The ONS said the numbers are based on where Covid-19 is mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, including in combination with other health conditions.

It comes as separate data showed care homes notified the Care Quality Commission (CQC) of 6,391 deaths of residents in homes between April 10 and May 1.​

Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey added in response to the figures: “With the death toll in the UK now the highest in Europe, the prime minister and his government need to be straight with people about why they were so slow to lockdown, slow to ramp up testing, and slow to support care homes.

“As the government begins to look at relaxing the lockdown measures, they must be transparent with the public. The figures announced today will leave many understandably worried about some of the measures that have been or will be taken, and the only proper way to reassure them will be to publish in full the evidence ministers use for whatever they propose later this week.

“The figures released this morning are heartbreaking, but also further demonstrate the need for a public inquiry into the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. The British public will want to know whether the government could have done more and they deserve the answer to that question.”

Prof James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said the UK is now “well past the peak” in terms of hospital deaths, but there is now a need to identify the cause of “so-called ‘excess’ deaths” that are not identified as Covid-19.

“There are many plausible theories as to their cause, however, we need real data on this urgently. As we go forward, we want to minimise all deaths, not just those tagged as Covid-19. The data indicates that the peak of daily deaths in care homes has passed but occurred later than the peak in hospitals.

“The peak of deaths in hospitals was 8 April suggesting softer measures may have had some benefit. We need to fully understand the effect of each of the measures we introduced, on viral spread in the community and in care homes. These new studies are vital as the virus has not gone away and it’s potential to spread rapidly and overwhelm the health care system is likely to be undiminished.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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