/UK coronavirus deaths pass 26,000

UK coronavirus deaths pass 26,000

Paramedics wearing PPE outside the Royal London Hospital in east LondonImage copyright
AFP

The number of people who have died with coronavirus in the UK has passed 26,000, as official figures include deaths in the community, such as in care homes, for the first time.

The total number of deaths in the UK is 26,097, Public Health England said.

This figure now includes deaths in the community since the start of March, along with hospital deaths.

Only people who died after testing positive for coronavirus are included in the new total.

Meanwhile, 52,429 coronavirus tests had taken place as of Tuesday, while there is the capacity to conduct more than 73,000 tests a day.

At the government’s daily briefing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the new figure for coronavirus deaths did not represent “a sudden surge”, as it includes retrospective deaths spread between 2 March and 28 April.

He added that daily death toll had risen by 765.

PHE said the latest figures included an additional 3,811 deaths in England since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

Of these, around 70% were outside hospital settings and around 30% were in hospital.

PHE said it has developed a new method of reporting daily Covid-19 deaths in England, to give a more complete number of those who have died from the virus.

The figures announced on Wednesday have been retrospectively revised by PHE since the first coronavirus death on 2 March to include additional data on deaths in the community.

From the start of the pandemic, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has reported a daily figure of Covid-19 deaths in hospitals in England, with deaths in other settings included from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The range of different bodies reporting death figures can make interpreting the data extremely confusing.

These updated daily figures do not provide a comprehensive picture of what has happened so far because of the lack of testing in the community in the early days. Therefore, it means the figures are an underestimate of what has been happening.

But as more testing is rolled out, the daily figures from now on will provide a more accurate picture of what is happening than has been the case so far.

A better guide to the impact so far in care homes comes from figures published by the Office for National Statistics in England and Wales and its counterparts in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

That data shows to the middle of April – there is a lag in reporting because it relies on death certificates rather than positive tests – there had been over 3,700 deaths in care homes across the UK.

Given the number is rising, you could expect by now there will have been over 6,000 deaths in care homes – with half of coronavirus deaths probably now happening in care homes, as the number of new hospital deaths are coming down.

There are essentially two separate epidemics – one in care homes that is raging and one in the general population, who end up in hospital when severely ill, which is coming under control.

Where does that leave us in comparison with other countries? It is really hard to tell at this stage given the different ways information is collected and the fact other countries are at different stages of the pandemic.

But it seems reasonable to suggest the impact in the UK is pretty similar to that in Italy, France and Spain.

PHE medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said tracking the daily death count was vital to help understand the impact of coronavirus.

She said: “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.”

She added ONS [Office for National Statistics] data includes suspected cases where a test has not taken place and this will continue to include more deaths.

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