Pandemic Sends England & Wales Deaths to 20-Year High

(Bloomberg) --

The U.K. reported its highest number of deaths in a week for two decades, with fatalities in care homes more than quadrupling in seven days, damping hopes that the coronavirus will soon be under control.

There were 18,516 deaths registered in the week ending April 10, 76% more than the average figure for the same week over the previous five years, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday. Of the 8,000 excess deaths, more than 6,200 were linked to the coronavirus, according to the ONS.

Unlike the daily numbers produced by the government, the ONS includes deaths in care homes and hospices as well as cases where Covid-19 is only listed as a contributory factor on death certificates. According to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the statistics lag the daily figures because collecting the information is more time consuming.

There is a difference of 1,700 between the additional deaths relative to the average weekly figure and those the ONS attributed to the coronavirus. Some Covid-19 linked deaths may be being missed while the pressure the pandemic has put on medical resources may also be causing fatalities, according to research by the Continuous Mortality Investigation.

‘Incredibly Concerning’

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that another factor increasing deaths could be people skipping treatment for other diseases to try and stay away from hospitals.

Pandemic Sends England & Wales Deaths to 20-Year High

“We know from previous epidemics that people do stop seeking help for other conditions or for common health interventions,” he said. “If as has been reported, people are not coming forward with serious illness and are dying as a result of not seeking care, it is incredibly concerning.”

For the government -- which on Monday pointed to “encouraging signs” that the outbreak is slowing as the daily death tally and number of people hospitalized in London fell -- the ONS numbers show how policy makers will have to balance inconsistent and incomplete data on the virus when they decide when and how to lift the restrictions on movement that have brought the country’s economy to a near halt.

The government is under particular scrutiny over the way it counts Covid-19 deaths. Other European countries like France include deaths in social care in their daily tallies. Care homes have been a hot spot for the virus across Europe, where the elderly and the people looking after them have proved vulnerable to the pandemic.

According to the weekly data, the outbreak is having a particularly severe impact on London, where more than half of all deaths involved the coronavirus, compared to a third nationwide.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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