UK’s Covid death toll hits 100,000, as care home fatalities almost TRIPLED in fortnight

The UK’s coronavirus death toll has passed the grim milestone of 100,000, official figures show.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today revealed that, as of January 15, there had been 103,704 Covid fatalities since the pandemic began. 

The figure is slightly lower than the Department of Health’s tally of 98,531 because the ONS includes all fatalities with Covid on the death certificates, whereas the Government’s figure relies on positive tests.

It comes after Britain suffered a devastating winter wave of the virus caused by the super-infectious mutant variant first found in Kent.

The new strain sparked a tsunami of infections and hospital admissions that left the UK with the highest Covid death rate in the world.   

Only four countries, the US (421,129), Brazil (217,664), India (153,587) and Mexico (150,273), which have far larger populations, have suffered higher death tolls. 

Experts say one of the driving factors behind the UK’s huge toll has been the Government’s failure to protect frail and elderly people in care homes – who account for a quarter of all deaths.

Separate damning ONS figures show fatalities among care home residents have almost tripled in the last fortnight, as the virus makes a deadly resurgence in the sector. 

The number-crunching body said there were 1,705 deaths reported to the Care Quality Commission in the seven days to January 2, up from 661 a fortnight ago.

Commenting on the figures, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, an eminent statistician at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘The more accurate ONS data show that over 100,000 people in the UK had already died with Covid on their death certificate by January 7, nearly three weeks ago. 

‘This rose to 108,000 by January 15, and the total now will be nearly 120,000. Around 90 per cent of these had Covid as the immediate cause of death, and so perhaps we can say that around 100,000 people in the UK have now died because of Covid. An awful total.’ 

It comes as care home residents have accounted for almost a third of the total number of coronavirus deaths in England and Wales, according to analysis of official data. 

Deaths from Covid-19 in care homes tripled in a fortnight across England which saw a total of 23,081 deaths. 

More than 30,000 care home residents in England and Wales have had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate, provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.      

It shows that, as of January 15 2021, 30,851 care home resident deaths across the UK involving Covid-19 had been registered.

Also up to this point, some 94,971 deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales had been registered. 

This means care home residents account for 32.4 per cent of all the Covid-19 deaths in England and Wales that have been registered so far.

For the first time the ONS has released data bringing together the deaths of care home residents in care homes and other settings since March 2020 up to the present. 

The number of deaths involving Covid-19 in care home residents has been rising in recent weeks. A total of 1,719 deaths were registered in the week to January 15 – the highest figure since the week ending May 21 2020.      

The ONS report today also found coronavirus accounted for four in 10 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending January 15 – the highest proportion recorded during the pandemic.

There were 7,245 deaths registered where the virus was mentioned on the death certificate in England and Wales,  a 20 per cent rise from the previous week, when 6,057 deaths were registered.

It is also the third highest weekly number recorded during the pandemic and at 40.2 per cent, the week with the highest proportion of deaths involving Covid-19 recorded so far.  

Of the 7,245 deaths registered where the virus was mentioned on the death certificate in England and Wales, 89.9 per cent had it recorded as an underlying cause of death. 

Meanwhile of the 5,273 deaths that involved Influenza and Pneumonia, 7.2 per cent had this recorded as the underlying cause of death. 

The number of deaths involving Covid-19 in care homes continued to rise, with 1,719 deaths in care homes registered in the week ending January 15. This is up 32.3 per cent from 960 the previous week.

Overall, there were 1,719 deaths of care home residents involving coronavirus either in the home, at hospital or another location, up 25.4 per cent from the previous seven days. 

Separate Care Quality Commission data shows it was notified of 2,314 deaths of care home residents in the week ending January 22. This is a rise of 32 per cent from the 1,752 notifications it received in the week ending January 15.

Professor Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics from The Open University said the ONS data for the week ending 15 January said the ‘news isn’t good, but that’s not unexpected’.  

‘If an infected person is, sadly, going to die of this awful disease, that would typically happen around two or three weeks after they became ill,’ Professor McConway said. 

‘So, on average, the people who died of Covid-19 between 9 and 15 January would have become ill when cases were still increasing at the end of last year, and that’s why deaths are up in that week compared to the week before.’    

‘It’s too early for there to be any noticeable effect of vaccination on the death registrations yet. If this pattern continues, then it’s possible that death registrations might begin to level off in next week’s ONS data, but that’s very far from certain.’ 

Professor McConway added how the number of deaths that did not involve Covid-19 is ‘running well below the five-year average’ which he explained is due to the current lockdowns and restrictions which prevent the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses that are transmitted in similar ways to the virus that causes Covid-19. 

The Independent Care Group, which represents providers in York and North Yorkshire, said the figures make ‘grim reading’ and demonstrate the need to avoid complacency.

Chairman Mike Padgham said: ‘Yes, we now have vaccines, and the Government is to be congratulated on the speed at which it is protecting the vulnerable.

‘But Covid-19 is not beaten yet and we must remain cautious and, on our guard, observing all the guidance and keeping everyone in care settings – care and nursing homes and those receiving care in their own homes – as safe as we can, alongside those who are caring for them.

‘The news that carers are going to be supplied with lateral flow tests they can do at home is another positive step and will hopefully have an impact and help protect carers who are selflessly looking after others.’

So far nearly 116,000 deaths involving Covid-19 have now occurred in the UK, the figures show.

A total of 108,084 deaths have so far been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, according to the latest reports from the UK’s statistics agencies.

This includes 98,450 deaths in England and Wales up to January 15, which were confirmed by the ONS on Tuesday.

Since these statistics were compiled, a further 7,162 deaths have occurred in England, plus 176 in Scotland, 203 in Wales and 157 in Northern Ireland, according to additional data published on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.

Together, these totals mean that so far 115,782 deaths involving Covid-19 have taken place in the UK. 

Dr Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, said: ‘While there are early signs that we could be passing the peak in new cases, the COVID emergency is far from over, with the disease accounting for more than two in five deaths in England and Wales – the highest proportion of all deaths since the pandemic started. 

According to the ONS, the total death count has now passed 100,000 people in the UK.

‘As we approach the anniversary of the first two positive cases of COVID-19 being identified in England, this is a grim new milestone in what our country has been through in the last year, and as we have been warned, things are likely to get worse before they get better in the coming weeks.

‘The NHS is doing everything it can to care for its patients, but it is under huge pressure, and the number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 is nearly double what it was in the spring. 

‘It’s crucial that the national lockdown is only eased when the evidence shows cases have come right down and that we get absolute certainty on the future supply of vaccines. ‘ 

Responding to the weekly mortality statistics from the ONS for the week ending 15 January, Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Research Sarah Scobie said:’Less than a year since the pandemic took off here in the UK, we will hit the tragic milestone of 100,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19. 

‘Worryingly, this harrowing figure does not take into account excess deaths indirectly associated with the virus.

‘In the most recent weekly registered deaths data, we have reached the third-highest (7,245) number of Covid fatalities at any time during the pandemic.’ 

She continued: ‘Two in five deaths registered in the week up to 15 January were Covid related translating to over half of all deaths in hospitals and over a third in care homes. 

‘The building pressure is still felt right across the health and care system, and as we have only recently hit record daily reporting of deaths, we know registrations will remain high for another few weeks.

‘The number of registered deaths from Covid of care home residents has increased by 25 per cent since last week. The sector is again feeling the strain, and while the vaccine roll-out for the most vulnerable is continuing at impressive speed it will be a while until the benefits feed through to the figures.’

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