In Brief

Why is the coronavirus death toll ‘50% higher’ than government figures?

Daily figure excludes deaths that occurred outside of hospitals including in care homes

Deaths from the coronavirus in England and Wales are running over 50% higher than the total announced by the government, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

The death toll revealed at the daily Downing Street briefings is the number of those that have died in hospital having tested positive for Covid-19. 

The Office for National Statistics figure, on the other hand, includes all deaths in which Covid-19 appears on the death certificate. This takes in deaths outside hospitals, such as those in care homes.

The Times explains that the government defends using the former figure “on the grounds that it is as close as possible to giving a real-time picture of the epidemic’s mortality rate”. 

However, ministers are now coming under mounting pressure to include deaths that happen in places such as care homes. Yesterday, the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, told the BBC that the spread of coronavirus in care homes has “largely gone under the radar”.

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Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow minister for social care, said: “We urgently need these figures on a daily basis to help deal with the emerging crisis in social care and ensure everything possible is being done to protect more than 400,000 elderly and disabled people who live in nursing and residential care homes.”

Data from several other European countries has shown that around half the deaths caused by coronavirus are occurring in care homes. Sky News reports that figures from five continental nations show that residents in care homes account for between 42% and 57% of all deaths related to the new coronavirus.

Last week, The Guardian reported that Care England, the industry body, estimated that the death toll in care homes is more likely to be close to 1,000.

“We are seeing underreporting of the number of deaths,” Martin Green, chief executive of Care UK, told the paper. 

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