In Brief

Coronavirus: why England’s daily death toll is dropping so slowly

The explanation lies in both the size of the outbreak and the way that Covid fatalities are measured

While Italy, France and Spain have reported just a handful of Covid-19 fatalities in recent weeks, an average of 50 people are still dying from the disease every day in the UK.

And the stubbornly high death toll afflicts England more than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to government data. Here are the two main explanations for the alarming figures:

The scale of the UK outbreak

Although some parts of Europe have had more acute coronavirus outbreaks, no other country has seen the virus spread as extensively as it has in the UK.

“Covid-19 was prevalent throughout the UK, with every local authority area reporting excess deaths during the peak of infections,” says The Independent.

With outbreaks occuring all around the country, it has taken longer to bring infections - and deaths - under control.

Statistical methods

The other reason for the UK’s high death toll also explains the divergence between England and Scotland.

While Scotland had the “third-largest increase” in deaths during the pandemic, according to the BBC, only six Covid-related deaths have been reported north of the border since 1 July. In the same period, England  recorded 2,614 coronavirus deaths.

However, the two countries calculate their statistic using very different methods, with Scotland favouring the method used in most of other nations.

In Scotland, “deaths are only counted as from confirmed Covid-19 if they die within 28 days of being diagnosed”, says Scottish television network STV. If someone diagnosed with the disease dies outside that period, they will not appear in the Scottish government figures.

In England, by contrast, anyone who dies after testing positive for Covid-19 is included in the figures, however long they live for and however they die.

“Under these terms, a person who tested positive a few months ago but then gets hit by a bus this week would be recorded as a Covid death,” says The Telegraph.

That may be an extreme case, but more than 300,000 people, many of them elderly, have now tested positive for the virus. Over time, an increasing number of them will die of one cause or another and appear in England’s daily statistics.

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