The UK has announced 861 more deaths from the coronavirus today, taking the total number of victims to 13,729.
In another dark milestone Britain has now officially diagnosed more than 100,000 people with the virus – making it only the sixth country in the world to do so. But the rising number of cases remains stable, with just 4,618 positive tests in the past 24 hours resulting in a total case count of 103,093.
NHS England confirmed a further 740 people died in its hospitals between yesterday and March 9. The patients were aged between 28 and 103. 40 of them had no other known health conditions before they got COVID-19.
And Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland confirmed a combined 121 more deaths from the coronavirus today. Their individual announcements add up to 130 but are not all included in the UK total.
The figures come as NHS England data revealing the days on which people actually died suggests the deadliest day in Britain could have been a week ago, on April 8. Hospitals recorded 782 people dying on that day. Death totals announced each day, which have regularly been higher than that, do not actually represent the number of people dying the past 24 hours. Today, for example, just 151 out of the 861 total happened yesterday.
Today’s death toll is the highest in five days, since Saturday last week, but the rise was not unexpected.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said in yesterday’s Government briefing that he expected a spike today as reports filter through from the long bank holiday weekend. He said the country cannot be sure it’s past the peak of the outbreak but added: ‘We do all think this has flattened out’.
One expert who said he thinks the UK is past its biggest daily death announcements said the turning point was a time to ‘remember the human suffering’ behind them and to keep in mind there could be another wave of cases.
The peak of the epidemic may not become clear for weeks after it happens because it can take weeks for hospital patients to die, then weeks more for those deaths to be recorded. For this reason, high numbers are expected to continue being announced each day and the numbers of new diagnoses may be slow to fall or even start to rise again as officials test more people.
The key measure is the number of people in hospital beds, which has been falling in many parts of Britain this week.
The Government is this afternoon expected to announce people must remain in lockdown for another three weeks, after reviewing the situation with its scientific advisers. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gazumped the announcement in her afternoon briefing and said the stay-at-home measures would continue.
And officials face more scathing criticism over the way they are handling the crisis in care homes around the country. Social care bosses wrote to the Department of Health at the weekend and said the organisation of mandatory personal protective equipment for their staff has been ‘shambolic’, a leaked letter showed.
In other UK coronavirus news:
- World Health Organization director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, said the UK, along with Russia and Belarus, is one of the reasons the continent is ‘still in the eye of the storm’ of the coronavirus crisis;
- A report sent to ministers has suggested coffee shops, restaurants and estate agents should be among the first to reopen on Britain’s high streets, as they are the businesses most likely to boost the economy and pose the smallest risk of spreading the virus;
- There are claims the population could be ‘segmented’ to ease restrictions with young people allowed back to work and primary schools opened, while pensioners and the vulnerable are ordered to stay in isolation;
- One of the Government’s own key experts, Professor Neil Ferguson, has warned curbs cannot be eased until mass testing is in place and criticised the government’s slow action;
- The first newly-adapted ventilator design has been approved by regulators, with the government ordering 15,000 of the Penlon’s Prima ES202 model;
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock has rejected calls for ministers to take a pay cut in solidarity with hard-hit workers, after counterparts in New Zealand announced they would;
- Mr Hancock insisted the government could hit its 100,000 a day testing target by the end of the month, despite questions over why it is still not using the current capacity of 25,000.
Workers outside a mortuary at Lewisham Hospital in London wheel a trolley used for transporting dead bodies
One academic today said he thinks the UK has passed the days of its highest death toll announcements, with the peak of 980 on April 10.
Professor James Naismith, from the University of Oxford, said: ‘As expected the Easter weekend has introduced additional volatility into the daily numbers.
‘The rise in numbers of deaths announced today may well have arisen from reporting delays rather than a resumption of rising daily number of deaths.
‘Unfortunately even although this particular measure may hopefully have peaked with the 980 deaths announced on April 10th, we will see many hundreds of hospital deaths announced each day for some weeks ahead.
There are still new cases arriving in hospitals and the NHS is still stretched.
‘The death toll is significantly higher than just the deaths announced in hospital.
‘Passing the peak of announced deaths is a moment to remember the human suffering that has happened and what is still to come.
‘At best we are at the end of the beginning. We may well have to face other waves of infection before either a reliable cure or a vaccine are discovered. What matters most now and in the immediate future is learning from this wave so that we do better in any subsequent wave.’
BACKDATED HOSPITAL DEATHS SUGGEST APRIL 8 WAS ENGLAND’S DEADLIEST DAY
NHS England collates data showing the exact dates on which coronavirus patients died in its hospitals. The figures are valuable for understanding the crisis because they track when a COVID-19 death actually occurred, not when it was reported.
The latest bulletin was published on April 16 and covers the period up to 5pm on April 15.
The data must treated with caution because it is revised and changed every day and does not include deaths in care homes and the wider community, but in the coming days and weeks it will give a picture of when the peak of the outbreak was.
The latest figures showed:
***** Figures are still preliminary and are likely to change, the NHS says.
More detailed statistics from NHS England show that the deadliest single day for actual deaths so far has been April 8. Depending on how backdated deaths are spread out over the coming days, this may prove to have been the peak of the UK’s outbreak.
Data shows 782 patients died in hospitals in England on the most lethal day. The number plummeted by more than 100 to 653 on April 9 and then fell again to 606 the following day. Death records are still filtering through from March, however, so the figures are likely to change.
The data is valuable for understanding the crisis because it tracks when a COVID-19 death actually occurred, not when it was reported.
A lag in the way fatalities are recorded means it can take days or even weeks for a death to be included in the overall tally, which stands at 12,868. Tests and postmortems sometimes need to confirm the cause of death was coronavirus before the Government can officially announce it.
Although the data could change in the future, the number of people in hospitals with the coronavirus is falling, suggesting a sudden spike in deaths later on is unlikely unless there is a second wave of cases.
Professor David Paton, an economist at Nottingham University, said in a Twitter thread: ‘In other words, deaths peaked on Weds 7th April.
‘Of course it is possible that there will be another surge and another higher peak later on but recent declines hospitalisations make that unlikely in the near future.’
The data should be treated with caution because it is revised and changed every day and does not include deaths in care homes and the wider community.
But it adds weight to the theory the country is flattening the curve. World-leading researchers projected deaths would peak on April 13.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty last night said he believed the worst of Britain’s crisis was behind it.
More evidence of a turning point today comes from King’s College London, which has been running an the COVID Symptom Tracker app recording self-reported illnesses from millions of people across the UK.
The scientists behind the app say the number of people reporting symptoms that match COVID-19 hasfallen 71 per cent in two weeks.
Latest analysis from the app estimates that there are now around 582,640 symptomatic coronavirus patients in the UK, down from two million on April 1.
The COVID Symptom Tracker app works by members of the public filling out forms which describe their health and ask about possible coronavirus symptoms.
Healthy people, those who think they might have COVID-19, and those who have been officially diagnosed are all encouraged to take part in it. The predictions were based on 871,458 participants who logged symptoms consistently for seven days.
One of the app’s developers, Professor Tim Spector, said it was ‘very reassuring’ to see that the number of symptomatic cases was falling.
But he cautioned: ‘With deaths still high, this is definitely not the time for complacency.
‘What the data tell us is that there is still a large number of infectious people in the UK with mild symptoms, so to quickly lift the lockdown would not be appropriate.’
The true scale of the outbreak in Britain is unclear because only people in hospitals have been routinely tested since the virus started spreading out of control in late February.
Infection estimates vary wildly from 1,000 cases for every one death – which would equal 13.7million people – to more than half the population having already caught the virus.
Even the true number of people dying is not as clear-cut as it seems, with data emerging from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – an independent but government-run recording body – suggesting thousands of people have so far been missed off the Department of Health’s daily totals.
BIRMINGHAM NHS TRUST BECOMES FIRST TO HIT 500 DEATHS
An NHS trust in Birmingham has become the first hospital board to record 500 deaths from the coronavirus, it was revealed today.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust – which runs four hospitals in the city – confirmed 21 more fatalities in today’s official tally.
It means the hospital trust has now recorded 505 COVID-19 fatalities, considerable more than the next worst-hit NHS organisation. At the second worst, the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, 350 people are confirmed to have died so far.
Figures also show Birmingham is the hardest-hit area of the UK, with more confirmed cases of the life-threatening infection than anywhere else.
Data collated by the Department of Health shows the city – home to more than a million people – has recorded 1,931 cases.
Hampshire and Kent are the next worst-hit local authorities in England, with both having confirmed 1,802 cases each, as of yesterday.
Data recording has been poor so far for people dying outside of hospitals and many are believed to have succumbed to the illness in care homes, hospices or their own homes without being officially recorded.
ONS statistics out today showed that 10 per cent of people who have died from the coronavirus in England and Wales had no underlying conditions.
They also revealed that men are being killed at twice the rate of women, with 97.5 deaths per 100,000 men compared to 46.5 per 100,000 women.
COVID-19 was the third most common cause of death in England and Wales in March, behind only dementia and heart disease.
London was the region that recorded the most fatalities today, with 153 more victims, followed by the North East & Yorkshire, which declared 150.
In the Midlands there were 127 more to add to the tally, while 106 were declared in the North West of England.
Hospitals in the East of England recorded 91, while 84 were announced in the South East and 29 in the South West.
An NHS trust in Birmingham has become the first to record 500 deaths from the coronavirus, today’s data reveals.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust – which runs four hospitals in the city – confirmed 21 more fatalities in England’s official tally.
It means the hospital trust has now recorded 505 COVID-19 fatalities, a huge amount more than the next worst-hit NHS organisation. A considerably lower 350 infected patients have died at the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, according to a count by health chiefs.
There are now at least 46 hospital trusts where more than 100 people have died, showing the effects of COVID-19 have spread far and wide.
Figures also show Birmingham is the hardest-hit area of the UK, with more confirmed cases of the life-threatening infection than anywhere else. Data collated by the Department of Health shows the city – home to more than a million people – has recorded 1,931 cases.
Hampshire and Kent are the next worst-hit local authorities in England, with both having confirmed 1,802 cases each, as of yesterday.
As a result of the country’s ongoing outbreak the Government is today expected to extend Britain’s lockdown by another three weeks, meaning people will have to continue to stay at home except for necessary trips.
Polling shows that the public appear to be in support of this. Research for MailOnline found 80 per cent of people would not feel safe going back to everyday life at the moment.
Nearly 60 per cent say they are not comfortable leaving the house and around half are now resigned to the draconian ‘social distancing’ curbs being in place until June – and 37 per cent say they will keep obeying the rules indefinitely if the government believes it is necessary.
The extraordinary findings in the polling by Redfield & Wilton come despite some 43 per cent reporting that the crisis is damaging their mental health.
The figures underline the challenge for ministers amid fears that the message that people must stay at home to save the NHS has been too successful.
Government advisers have admitted to being surprised by the extent to which Britons have been obeying the regime, with politicians increasingly alarmed at the huge consequences for the economy and Treasury finances.
Pressure is mounting for an ‘exit strategy’ – but the Cobra emergency committee will formally extend the curbs for another three weeks later.
The Redfield & Wilton research, conducted yesterday, will be reassuring for the government amid growing criticism of its slow initial response and progress on mass testing.
It is widely regarded as too soon for the UK to start lifting its lockdown measures because the coronavirus is still spreading in hospitals and in the community, and there are still thousands of people sick on hospital wards.
Dr Hans Kluge, WHO director for Europe, has said the UK is one of the reasons that Europe is still ‘in the eye of the COVID-19 storm’ while there are promising signs of recovery in other countries.
He said: ‘Of the 10 countries in the region with the highest numbers of cases, there have been optimistic signs in terms of the climbing numbers in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland in recent weeks.
‘But small positive signals in some countries are tempered by sustained or increased levels of incidents in other countries, including in the UK, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
‘The next few weeks will be critical for Europe. Make no mistake – despite the spring weather, we are in the middle of a storm.’
Underlining his point is the fact that daily death tolls have continued to rise in many places even as new infections fall, due to the time it takes an infected person to become sick enough to die.
A graph showing the number of new infections in various countries, starting on the day they first recorded five infections. The graph shows a rolling average, meaning it shows trends in the data rather than exact figures. While some countries such as India, Japan and Indonesia are still rising up the chart, many countries have leveled off or are seeing infection rates fall