LONDON (Reuters) – The novel coronavirus outbreak has caused as many as 41,000 deaths in the United Kingdom, according to a Financial Times analysis of statistics office data.
Cyclists are seen wearing protective face masks in Battersea Park during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
The FT extrapolation is based on the number of all fatalities in official data recorded recently that have exceeded the usual average. These figures include deaths that occurred outside hospitals.
The latest hospital death data show 17,337 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus across the United Kingdom as of this Monday.
But right now the true death toll from COVID-19 – the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus – is likely to be more than double this, based on the FT’s analysis of excess deaths in recent data.
On Tuesday the Office for National Statistics reported that 18,516 people died in England and Wales in the week ending April 10, or 7,966 more than the five-year average.
While the ONS records mentions of COVID-19 in death certificates, the sheer volume of extra total deaths – including those that do not mention COVID-19 – means that the true toll from the disease is being undercounted, according to the FT analysis.
This indicates the “real” death toll from the coronavirus is now running around 41,000.
The ONS data on Tuesday provided concrete examples of the under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths.
The statistics showed deaths in care homes had doubled over recent weeks, but only 17% of the death certificates mentioned COVID-19.
Cambridge professor David Spiegelhalter told the FT that it was not credible that these extra deaths could mostly come as a result of indirect effects from the coronavirus lockdown, such as seriously ill people avoiding hospital.
“There is no suggestion that the collateral damage – however large it is – is anything like as big as the harm from Covid,” Spiegelhalter said.
When asked about the 41,000 death figure from the FT, Helen Whately, a junior health and social care minister, said: “That is not a figure that I recognise.”
“We know that people are dying in care homes and we know that more people than usual are dying in care homes,” Whately said, adding that the government would next week publish data on deaths in care homes.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Andy Bruce, editing by Estelle Shirbon and Angus MacSwan