Home World Coronavirus: UK deaths pass 26,000 as figures include care home cases

Coronavirus: UK deaths pass 26,000 as figures include care home cases

Paramedics wearing PPE outside the Royal London Hospital in east London

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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, still short of the government’s target of 100,000 tests per day by Thursday.

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

PHE said its 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.

There were 765 deaths reported in the 24 hours to 17:00 BST on Tuesday.

At the briefing, the BBC’s health editor Hugh Pym asked why testing in care homes had not started sooner.

The foreign secretary said such a suggestion would have required “enormous testing capacity”.

He added: “We have expanded the eligibility, eligibility now includes anyone in a care home whether resident or staff.

“We have obviously had a distribution issue, there is no sugar coating the challenge we have had with that.”

However, Mr Raab said the government was now doing “whether it’s the supply or the delivery, we’re doing everything that we possibly can” to improve supply and delivery.

PHE’s medical director, Prof Yvonne Doyle, said testing had always occurred at a local level during outbreaks but said the care home sector was “most complex” with 16,000 homes.

She said: “The scale and the speed of this epidemic is really in the last couple of weeks.

“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.”

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 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.

Prof 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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