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Coronavirus UK: ONS data shows death toll 41% higher than figures suggest

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics today revealed the true extent of the coronavirus death toll in England and Wales.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (C), Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jonathan Van Tam (L) and Professor John Newton.

In a short article published online the Office for National Statistics (ONS) explained the discrepancies between different sets of official figures. The data relates to coronavirus deaths up to week ending 10 April 2020.

The daily figures released by the UK government come from the Department for Health and Social Care, and relate to the number of deaths in England and Wales. Initially the total number of deaths up to 10 April was reported to be 9,288.

However this data is primarily a count of deaths reported in hospitals by 5pm the day before. This means that deaths outside of hospitals, particularly care homes, are not counted in the daily figures.

The ONS data released today includes all deaths registered by 18 April, where the patient had actually died by the 10 April. The total death count has therefore been raised to 13,121, an increase of 41% on the initial figures.

This is in part a feature of the unavoidable delay been a patient passing away and that information being provided for national figures. The Coronavirus Act 2020 allowed registry offices to remain open over Easter in the hope of improving the flow of information but that has only tackled part of the problem.

In NHS hospitals instances of deaths can be collected fairly efficiently but patients who die in care homes or elsewhere are unlikely to be included in the next day’s figures. Based on the data currently available, 15.8% of coronavirus deaths in England have occurred outside hospital.

You can follow the latest developments on the Covid-19 crisis with our daily live blog.

UK  "overlooking how this crisis is playing out in other settings"

Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow social care minister, spoke on Sky News about the “emerging crisis in social care” that today’s figures have exposed.

"The government must now publish daily figures of Covid-19 deaths outside hospitals, including in care homes, so we know the true scale of the problem”, she said.

The National Care Forum’s executive director, Vic Rayner, has also called for greater focus on the situation outside of hospitals where official figures are unable to accurately report on a changing landscape.

"Our current national debate on how to mitigate and exit this crisis is virtually entirely centred on the management of the peak within hospitals.

"We are overlooking how this crisis is playing out in other settings, which are there to protect those who are most vulnerable to the impact of the virus.”


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