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 on Tuesday.
Some 41,020 deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate were registered across the UK by May 8, 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 on Tuesday 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 May 8, 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 on Tuesday criticised the decision to initially concentrate testing in a limited number of laboratories.
“From it followed the decision on March 12 to cease testing in the community and retreat to testing principally within hospitals,” it said, warning this left care home residents untested.
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 percent of care homes in England had no reported cases of COVID-19 at all, he added.
Just over a quarter (27 percent) 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.
He added, “Again, I sound a very strong warning on behalf of the committee and the government of Borno State that they should desist henceforth or face the law.
“We will close down all such premises and prosecute the offenders in accordance with the extant laws of the country.”
Kwayabura informed journalists that while the total number of recovered patients who have been discharged from the isolation centre was 18, the death toll has risen to 21.
He said 10 out of the 21 cases were managed at the isolation centres before the patients gave up the ghost, but the remaining 11 were brought in critical conditions and their status was only discovered after a post-mortem was conducted.
The Commissioner, who is also the secretary of the State COVID 19 Task Force, lamented that some infected patients wait until the disease knocks them down before presenting themselves at the hospital.
According to him, the Ministry of Health had already sent out letters to the culprits with very clear warnings that none of them has the capacity to test for COVID-19.
Kwayabura added that as laboratories conduct diagnostic investigations, they do not have the mandate to attend to patients medically or prescribe the drugs to use.
“I want to sound a very strong warning to pharmacies and patent medicine stores outlets across the state, to private laboratories and private hospitals spread across the state; it is absolutely clear in the laws of this nation that they cannot provide medical care to any individual.
“Therefore, it remains an illegal act to consult within the premises of your facilities,” the commissioner caution.
He, however, asked all government and private hospitals and clinics to be on high alert and properly profile all patients who come to their facilities for medical care.
Kwayabura also asked medical personnel to immediately arrange for the referral of any suspected case of COVID-19 to the state isolation centre for necessary actions.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 270,000 people worldwide since it began in China late last year, with more than 85 percent of fatalities in Europe and the United States, according to an AFP tally compiled from official figures at 1615 GMT on Friday.
In total, 270,927 deaths have been reported across the globe from 3,877,772 confirmed cases.
Europe is the most affected continent with 153,367 deaths and 1,678,485 cases. The United States is the country with the most deaths at 75,781, followed by Britain with 31,241, Italy 30,201, Spain 26,299 and France 25,987.
Britain’s overall death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose by 739 to 27,510 on Friday, as new data indicated that people in disadvantaged areas were worse hit.
The increase came as Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the country had met its goal of achieving 100,000 tests a day by the end of April.
A total of 122,347 tests were achieved on Thursday, he told a daily briefing about the government’s response to the pandemic, calling the increase an “incredible achievement”.
“The testing capacity that we’ve built together will help every single person in this country,” he said. “Testing is crucial to suppress the virus.”
The 100,000 target had looked out of reach at the beginning of the week, when only 43,000 people were being tested per day despite a capacity for 73,000.
Friday’s number includes thousands of home testing kits that have been sent in the post but not yet returned. The minister paid tribute to delivery companies including Yodel for helping to send out the tests.
The government has faced weeks of criticism, particularly from health and social care workers, who say they have been unable to get tests despite dealing with COVID-19 patients.
It also faced a backlash for not including deaths in care homes and the wider community in official statistics, forcing a change on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that Britain was “past the peak” of the outbreak, and that wider testing would be key to keeping transmission rates down.
Hancock said testing would also be crucial to lifting stringent lockdown measures imposed in late March and restoring social and economic freedoms.
Death and Deprivation
Hancock also said the government was concerned about Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures about the effect the virus has had on more deprived parts of the country.
The virus has had a disproportionate impact on black and ethnic minority communities, the elderly, men and the obese.
The ONS earlier revealed that areas of England with the worst rankings for income, health, education and crime, suffered 55.1 deaths per 100,000 people due to COVID-19.
That compared to 25.3 per 100,000 in the least deprived areas.
“This is something that we’re worried about,” Hancock said.
“We’re… trying to understand the impact of the virus as much as we possible can as and when we get new evidence.”
According to the ONS, general mortality rates involving all causes of deaths, including COVID-19, were 88 per cent higher in the most deprived areas than in the least.
But when looking at the impact of deprivation on COVID-19 mortality, the rate in the most disadvantaged areas of England was 118 per cent higher than in more well-off locations.
“People living in more deprived areas have experienced COVID-19 mortality rates more than double those living in less deprived areas,” said Nick Stripe, ONS head of health analysis.
The ONS figures, which analysed deaths between March 1 and April 17, confirmed London was the epicentre of Britain’s outbreak, which is the second-worst in Europe behind Italy.
The capital had the highest mortality rate in the country, with 85.7 deaths per 100,000 people involving COVID-19.
This was more than double the next highest area, the West Midlands — which includes the city of Birmingham — where there were 43.2 deaths involving coronavirus per 100,000 people.
The east London borough of Newham was worst hit, with 144.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
London and Birmingham are the most diverse areas of Britain, a fact that has been used to explain why ethnic minorities have been particularly affected by the outbreak.
But a new study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank on Friday suggests a more complex picture.
It notes that most minorities are younger on average than the general population, so should be less vulnerable.
But “after stripping out the role of age and geography, Bangladeshi hospital fatalities are twice those of the white British group, Pakistani deaths are 2.9 times as high and black African deaths 3.7 times as high”, it said.
“Bangladeshi men have high rates of underlying health problems, and black Africans and Indian men are particularly exposed to the virus due to their prevalence in healthcare roles.”
Spain registered a sharp drop in its daily death toll from the new coronavirus on Sunday, with the number falling to 410 from 565.
The total number of fatalities in Spain, the third hardest-hit country in the world after the US and Italy, has reached 20,453, the health ministry said.
“It’s a number that gives us hope,” said health ministry emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon of the daily death toll, at its lowest in four weeks.
“It’s the first time we are under 500 dead since the daily tolls began to climb.”
Infections rose to 195,344, with 4,218 new cases in the past 24 hours.
But Simon admitted the fall in the number of deaths from Saturday to Sunday can be explained by the lower registration of fatalities over the weekend. Such a drop is often followed by a rise at the start of the week.
Spanish authorities believe the country reached the peak of the pandemic on April 2 when they had counted 950 deaths in 24 hours. But they are not ready to recommend a lifting of the nationwide lockdown, one of the tightest in Europe.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday announced he would ask parliament to extend the lockdown by two weeks to May 9.
The restrictions currently in place would, however, be loosened slightly to allow children time outside from April 27, Sanchez said.
Damascus in early March paused a military offensive on rebels and jihadists in Syria’s northwest, after a ceasefire brokered by regime ally Russia came into effect.
The Moscow-backed campaign had displaced nearly a million people in the region since December, piling pressure on informal settlements already brimming with families forced to flee previous bouts of violence.
The fate of the displaced has been a key concern of aid groups amid an outbreak in the country of the novel coronavirus, which has killed two and infected eight others.
The United Nations has appealed for a nation-wide ceasefire to tackle the novel coronavirus threat, while aid groups have warned of a health catastrophe if the pandemic hits overcrowded displacement camps or crammed regime prisons.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first major world leader to test positive for the coronavirus on Friday as Spain suffered its deadliest day yet in a pandemic that has now killed more than 25,000 people around the world.
In a pair of grim milestones, an AFP tally showed the number of deaths hitting 25,066, most of them in Europe, and the United States overtook China as the country with the most coronavirus cases.
Economies were reeling — the head of the IMF said it was clear the world had entered a recession — and Africa’s business powerhouse South Africa became the latest nation to start life under lockdown as it reported its first COVID-19 deaths.
Johnson, whose country has seen more than 14,000 declared coronavirus cases and 759 deaths, said he had developed mild symptoms over the previous 24 hours and was self-isolating after testing positive.
Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock also tested positive with mild symptoms.
Spain reported that its death toll had hit 4,858 after 769 people died in 24 hours, a record one-day figure.
It was higher than the latest toll from hard-hit Italy, where experts said the epidemic could peak in the next few days but regional authorities warned the crisis was far from over.
The rate of new infections also appeared to be slowing in Spain, something officials cautiously described as “promising”.
Europe has suffered the brunt of the coronavirus crisis in recent weeks, with millions across the continent on lockdown and the streets of Paris, Rome and Madrid eerily empty.
‘She just had a cough’
In France — where nearly 1,700 people have died — the government announced it was extending its stay-at-home order until at least April 15.
“We find ourselves in a crisis that will last, in a health situation that will not improve any time soon,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
The death of a 16-year-old girl from the virus has particularly shaken France, and shattered the belief of many young people that they are immune.
The girl’s mother Sabine told AFP that Julie “just had a cough” at first but deteriorated quickly. She died on Wednesday, less than a week after showing her first symptoms.
“It’s unbearable,” Sabine said. “We were supposed to have a normal life.”
‘They didn’t listen’
Focus was also turning to the United States, where the number of known infections reached almost 86,000, higher than both China and Italy.
In New York City, health workers are battling a surging toll of dead and infected at the US epicentre of the crisis, including an increasing number of younger patients.
“Now it’s 50-year-olds, 40-year-olds, 30-year-olds,” said one respiratory therapist at the Jewish Medical Center in Queens.
They “didn’t listen about not going out or protecting themselves and washing their hands”, he said.
“To watch somebody in their 30s die, it’s hard. You can’t have visitors. They’re in the room by themselves on a ventilator. It’s very depressing.”
The coronavirus first emerged in China late last year before spreading globally, with almost 550,000 declared cases in 183 countries and territories.
Every day, scientists and epidemiologists pore over the exponential growth of the pandemic to see if they can get ahead of the curve to limit the spread.
Over the last six days, as many new cases have been diagnosed around the world as in the previous 80 days.
Beijing managed to contain its spread with lockdowns and quarantines and its epicentre Wuhan is in the process of easing severe movement restrictions in place for two months.
Three billion people around the world have been told to stay indoors, upending normal life across the world.
Health care systems even in the most developed nations are stretched to breaking point and medical workers have been having to make difficult choices.
“If I’ve got five patients and only one bed, I have to choose who gets it,” Sara Chinchilla, a paediatrician at a hospital near Madrid, told AFP.
Lockdowns and other measures are wreaking havoc on the global economy, with fears of a downturn worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“It is clear that we have entered a recession” that will be worse than in 2009 following the global financial crisis, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said Friday.
Leaders from the Group of 20 major economies held crisis talks by video link on Thursday, announcing a $5 trillion financial rescue package “to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic”.
Unprecedented stimulus measures have helped markets bounce back after a brutal month, but people around the world are bracing for economic hardship.
The United States reported that 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week — by far the highest number ever recorded.
Retail workers in particular have suffered as many countries shutter non-essential business, while airlines and the global tourism industry have been dealt devastating blows.
Armies of volunteers
The World Tourism Organization said Friday it expected tourist arrivals to fall by 20-30 percent this year, with losses of $300 billion-450 billion in international tourism receipts.
But there have been rays of hope in the midst of the crisis.
Armed groups in Cameroon, the Philippines and Yemen have moved in recent days to reduce violence after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued an appeal for ceasefires.
And armies of volunteers have emerged in many countries to bring help to the needy, with food deliveries for the elderly, free taxi rides, accommodation for health workers, and even home-sewn face masks.
“We delivered urgent diabetes medicines today to Claudia, who is 70 and lives with her 90-year-old mother. We passed them through the window,” said Lorenzo Mastrocesare, a volunteer in Rome.
The death toll from China’s new coronavirus epidemic jumped past 1,500 on Saturday but new infections fell following a mid-week surge caused by a change in the way cases are counted.
More than 66,000 people have now been infected in China from a virus that emerged in central Hubei province in December before spreading across the country a month later and causing global panic.
Some 1,700 medical workers have been infected, with six dying from the COVID-19 illness, officials said, underscoring the country’s struggle to contain the deepening health crisis.
Chinese President Xi Jinping acknowledged that the outbreak exposed “shortcomings” in the country’s health emergency response system.
Battling the outbreak is a “big test for the country’s governance system and governance ability,” Xi said as he chaired a political meeting on government reforms this week, according to state media.
Chinese authorities have placed some 56 million people in Hubei under quarantine, virtually sealing off the province from the rest of the country in an unprecedented effort to contain the virus.
A number of cities far from the epicentre have also imposed tough measures limiting the number of people who can leave their homes, while schools remain closed nationwide and many companies have encouraged employees to work from home.
Several countries have banned arrivals from China and major airlines have cut services with the country.
But the epidemic has continued to spread across China and hundreds of cases have emerged in more than two dozen countries.
In Singapore, which has 67 confirmed cases, the Roman Catholic Church said it was suspending all masses indefinitely to help prevent the spread of the virus and urged the faithful to follow services on YouTube or the radio.
Fewer new cases
The National Health Commission reported 143 new deaths on Saturday, with all but four in Hubei, raising the toll to 1,523.
The commission also reported 2,641 new cases of the COVID-19 strain, with the vast majority in Hubei.
The number, however, was almost half those reported the previous day.
The scale of the epidemic swelled this week after authorities in Hubei changed their criteria for counting cases, adding thousands of new patients to their tally.
Previously, they were counting only cases with a positive lab test result but are now also including those “clinically diagnosed” through lung imaging.
Officials said the change was necessary to ensure that patients get treated early amid reports of backlogs in lab tests.
The revision added nearly 15,000 patients to Hubei’s tally on Thursday, with the World Health Organization noting that cases going back weeks were retroactively counted.
“We’re seeking further clarity on how clinical diagnosis is being made to ensure other respiratory illnesses including influenza are not getting mixed into the COVID-19 data,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.
There were over 4,800 cases reported in Hubei on Friday and 2,420 on Saturday.
The number of new confirmed cases has been steadily falling outside Hubei, with 221 infections reported on Saturday.
A top Chinese scientist had predicted that the epidemic could peak by the end of this month after the number of new cases had fallen earlier in the week.
The WHO cautioned that it was “way too early” to make any predictions about the disease’s trajectory.
Authorities said Friday 1,716 medical workers have been infected during the outbreak, with six dying from the illness.
Most of the infections among health workers were in Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, where many have lacked proper masks and gear to protect themselves in hospitals dealing with a deluge of patients.
The grim figures come a week after grief and public anger erupted over the death of a whistleblowing doctor who had raised the alarm about the virus in December and been reprimanded and silenced by police in Wuhan.