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UK's official coronavirus death toll now at least 41,000 as criticism of care home handling ramps up

Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier told parliament he was encouraged that care home deaths were falling.

Image: Victoria Jones/PA Images

BRITAIN’S OFFICIAL CORONAVIRUS death toll is at least 41,000 with almost 10,000 dead in care homes in England and Wales alone, according to a statistical update released today.

Some 41,020 deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate were registered across the UK by 8 May, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

With hundreds of deaths still being reported each day, it means the current toll, already the highest in Europe and second only to the United States in the global rankings, is likely to be even higher.

The government’s official rolling tally only records deaths after positive tests, and today stood at 35,341, up 545 on the day before.

The ONS figures show a sharp fall in coronavirus deaths in the week up to 8 May, reinforcing ministers’ claims that Britain is past the peak.

Deaths in care homes fell at a slower rate than the population at large, and the total number of deaths in care homes in England and Wales now stands at 9,975.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has come under intense criticism for its handling of the outbreak, notably for the time it took to introduce widespread testing.

A cross-party parliamentary committee today criticised the decision to initially concentrate testing in a limited number of laboratories.

“From it followed the decision on 12 March to cease testing in the community and retreat to testing principally within hospitals,” it said, warning this left care home residents untested.

Today, the head of care homes launched a stinging attack on the government over its handling of the crisis. 

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said pandemic planning had been completely inadequate and the British government had focused on the NHS while discharging infected patients into care homes.

He told MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee that despite promises from ministers, there were still huge issues with testing, with results lost and staff waiting eight to 10 days to find out if they have coronavirus.

“We also saw people being discharged from hospital when we didn’t have the testing regime up and running,” Green said.

So despite what’s been said, there were cases of people who either didn’t have a Covid-19 status, or who were symptomatic, who were discharged into care homes.
Now given that care homes are full of people with underlying health conditions, I think we should’ve looked at focusing on where the people at most risk were, rather than thinking about a particular organisation.

At the government’s daily media briefing, England’s deputy chief scientific adviser, Angela McLean, admitted that limited capacity had driven strategy on testing.

“It was the best thing to do with the tests that we had. We could not have people in hospital with Covid symptoms not knowing whether or not they had Covid,” she said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier told parliament he was encouraged that care home deaths were falling.

A total of 62% of care homes in England had no reported cases of Covid-19 at all, he added.

Just over a quarter (27%) of all deaths in England from the virus were in such places, compared with a European average of about half, he told MPs.

“We will not rest from doing whatever is humanly possible to protect our care homes from this appalling virus,” he said.

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With reporting from PA

© – AFP 2020

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