UK coronavirus death toll reaches 1,789 amid data reporting concerns | World news

A record 381 people, including an otherwise healthy 19-year-old, have been confirmed to have died yesterday of coronavirus in NHS hospitals, bringing the UK death toll to 1,789.

These figures represent the single biggest daily rise in the death toll since the crisis began, and mean the number of recorded victims has doubled in four days. It ends a two-day run when the increase in deaths appeared to be steadying.

It also came as separate new statistics suggested the UK had underreported the number of coronavirus deaths by almost 24%. The Office of National Statistics said an additional 40 people were suspected to have died of coronavirus earlier this month in England and Wales, at a time when the official toll for the two countries was 170.

The new ONS figures include deaths in people’s own homes and care homes, suggesting that almost one in four coronavirus fatalities are occurring outside hospitals and are not picked up by the daily NHS tally.

The new NHS figures include 367 more deaths in England, taking its total to 1,651. On Tuesday, 13 more deaths were also reported in Scotland, seven more in Wales, and six more in Northern Ireland.

A breakdown of the figures in England showed the youngest victim was 19 years old, and was said to have had no underlying health conditions. The oldest victim was 98. Some 28 of the victims in England had no known other health problems, the NHS said.

Prof Francois Balloux, professor of computational systems biology at University College London, described the variation in reported deaths as reported in the UK as “considerable”.

Francois Balloux

Considerable recent day-to-day variation of #COVID19 case fatalities in the UK confirmed for today.

March 31, 2020

The figures also showed that hospitals across England, and not just in London and the West Midlands, are now reporting multiple deaths.

Some of the worst-hit were Basildon and Thurrock hospitals with 10 deaths; Manchester university foundation trust with seven deaths; Salford Royal hospital with five deaths; Wirral university foundation trust with six deaths; Oxford university trust with seven deaths; Nottinghamshire university hospitals with eight; Derby and Burton foundation trust with 21 deaths; and Leeds teaching hospitals with seven deaths.

The worst-hit trust was North West London, where 38 more patients were recorded to have died of the virus. Its patch includes Northwick Park hospital in Harrow, which declared a critical incident last month after its emergency beds became overrun.

Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said the figures were “shocking but sadly unsurprising”.

He added: “There will be days when the figures are comparatively low, but there will also be days when we see distressingly large increases. It’s therefore important to look at trends over a number of consecutive days, rather than draw conclusions from any single day’s figures.”

Prof Jim Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and professor of structural biology, Oxford University, urged the government to be more consistent in the data it provides. “Some of the NHS trusts reporting deaths in today’s NHS press release are apparently counting deaths over several days, other trusts for one day. Some trusts stop at the 29th [March], other trusts report deaths on the 30th. It is unclear how these numbers relate to the overall daily number from the UK government,” he said.

“However, it does appear deaths from previous days are only now being reported. This will have artificially decreased the previous daily totals and have increased today’s totals. Scientists have consistently warned that we cannot judge our progress in curbing the epidemic by a single day’s reported number of deaths.”

Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, said the daily figures should be treated with caution but they suggest the UK is two weeks behind Italy.

He said: “The extreme day-to-day variation in reported Covid-19 deaths is far more than we would expect from chance variability and must be due to reporting practices. Over the last week, reported deaths rose on average by an estimated 21% each day, similar to Italy at the same stage of the epidemic, around two weeks ago. Italy’s death rate appears to have now levelled off at around 900 a day, and we can hope that our death rate will also flatten off due to the measures started a few weeks ago.”

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