The coronavirus outbreak in the UK may have killed more than 41,000 people already when non-hospital deaths are included.
Office for National Statistics data, which includes victims who have died at home or in nursing homes, puts the total fatalities significantly higher than the day-by-day hospital tallies released by the NHS and Department of Health.
But the main drawback of the ONS statistics, which come out once per week, is that they’re 10 days out of date by the time they get published.
A forecast by the Financial Times has suggested that, by the time data for yesterday is released, it will turn out that at least 41,102 people had already died. The newspaper called this a ‘conservative’ estimate.
The current death toll according to the NHS and the Department of Health is just 17,337.
Statistics yesterday suggested the true figure including care homes deaths is at least 42 per cent higher, and revealed that the first full week of April, from the 4th to the 10th, was the deadliest week in England Wales for 20 years – 18,615 people died.
Almost 8,000 of those were considered ‘excess deaths’ – ones which would not be expected in an average week at that time of year – and were thought to be linked to COVID-19.
The prediction comes as a new, wider-ranging set of data from Scotland shows that at least 1,616 people have died with the coronavirus there, up from the only 985 officially recorded in government figures.
The Office for National Statistics, which releases data once per week and counts deaths that happen outside of hospitals, already outstrip NHS statistics by at least 41 per cent
WEEK-ON-WEEK CARE HOME DEATHS DOUBLE IN A FORTNIGHT
The weekly number of care home deaths has doubled in a fortnight amid the coronavirus crisis.
ONS data yesterday showed 4,927 fatalities were recorded in homes across England and Wales in the week that ended April 10 – including 826 officially linked to COVID-19.
This almost doubled from the 2,489 care home deaths recorded in the week ending March 27, the week when the UK’s lockdown begun.
It means the official care home death toll – up until April 10 – in England and Wales stands at 1,043. But the true figure is likely to be much higher.
Industry figures fear the true number is closer to 4,000 because fatalities are being under-reported due to a lack of testing. Only people in hospitals are routinely tested for the disease.
GPs are also sometimes reluctant to write COVID-19 on death certificates and figures from care homes are not included in the official daily toll, care bosses say.
ONS data also showed the number of care home deaths that occurred up until April 10 that were registered by April 18 was 1,458 in England alone.
But the ONS weekly data release is the only measure given to the public about how many people are dying outside of hospitals. Hospital statistics are released and updated every day.
Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow minister for social care, said today: ‘These awful figures are only scratching the surface of the emerging crisis in social care because they are already 11 days out of date.’
The FT extrapolation is based on the number of excess deaths, including data from Scotland and Northern Ireland, but its exact workings are not immediately clear.
Its model essentially forecasts how backdated data, including deaths which happened outside of hospitals, could look in 10 days’ time.
It is based on data from the National Records of Scotland and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, as well as the ONS, which covers England and Wales.
There have been around 17,000 excess deaths across the UK since mid-March, these statistics show, but the number is out of date due to a lag in reporting.
The estimate of 41,102 deaths by April 21 includes more than 10,000 taking place in care homes.
ONS figures already show that one in 10 coronavirus deaths between April 4 and April 10 happened in nursing homes in England and Wales.
And this number is expected to increase as more data becomes available for the days around the peak of the fatalities in hospitals, now thought to have been April 8.
ONS statistics yesterday showed that deaths in care homes had doubled over recent weeks but only 17 per cent of the death certificates mentioned COVID-19.
Professor David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, told the FT it was not likely that those were the only ones in which the coronavirus played a part.
He said indirect effects – such as people avoiding hospital for fear of catching the virus there – were not likely to account for such a huge spike in deaths.
‘There is no suggestion that the collateral damage, however large it is, is anything like as big as the harm from COVID,’ Professor Spiegelhalter said.
Data published today by the National Records of Scotland has revealed that the true number of deaths there is significantly higher than the government records show.
Up to April 19, the records show, 1,616 people had died with COVID-19 in Scotland. By that time, Public Health Scotland had announced 903 victims.
The new information, which includes people who died outside of hospitals, as well as backdated hospital deaths, puts the death toll 79 per cent higher than the day-by-day number put out by the Scottish Government.
One in every three of the deaths happened in nursing homes, the BBC reported.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today said 384 homes in the country have confirmed they have outbreaks of COVID-19 among their residents.