The United Kingdom is on track to become one of Europe’s worst-hit countries in the coronavirus pandemic, according to data on Tuesday that showed deaths from COVID-19 had already topped 20,000 by April 17, including a fast-rising toll in care homes.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the death toll involving COVID-19 in England and Wales was 52 percent higher than the daily figures for deaths in hospitals released by the government as of April 17, according to data that include deaths in the community.
Overall, 21,284 people overall had died as of April 17 with mentions of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, on their death certificates, the ONS said.
That was significantly higher than the 13,917 people who died in hospitals, as published by the government on April 18.
That takes the UK’s total death toll as of April 17 beyond those reported by France – which also includes deaths in care homes – and Spain, although lower than Italy’s total toll.
A trebling of deaths in care homes in England and Wales within the space of a few weeks contributed to a far higher toll.
The ONS said that overall 7,316 people had died in care homes overall during the 16th week of 2020, almost treble the number reported in the 13th week.
According to figures released by the health ministry, more than 21,000 people have so far died in hospitals across the United Kingdom after testing positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s spokesman said on Tuesday that Britain was not yet at the point of wanting to change its strict guidelines on social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19, with the government focusing on reviewing the measures by May 7.
“It is important that they remain in place for now. We need to pass five tests before we can think about moving on to the next phase in the coronavirus response. We are not there yet,” the spokesman told reporters.
“What we need to be focused on is everybody following the social distancing rules and ensuring that we have got the spread of this virus fully under control.”
In recent weeks, critics have accused Johnson’s government of failing to provide key workers with an adequate supply of personal protective equipment.
The UK held a minute’s silence on Tuesday for all front-line workers who have died from the coronavirus.
As clocks struck 11am, senior political leaders, including Johnson, joined hospital and nursing home staff in observing the silence.
London’s underground and bus networks came to a halt as workers honoured colleagues, and Westminster Abbey paid tribute to “the sacrifice of health and care workers who have lost their lives in the service of others”.
On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 82 workers in the National Health Service and 16 social care staff had died so far. Other workers, including a number of bus drivers in London, have also died after testing positive for COVID-19.