Britain today announced 324 more Covid-19 deaths, taking the official number of coronavirus victims past 38,000 as separate data shows the true number of fatalities is at least 10,000 higher.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the figure tonight at Downing Street’s daily press conference, where he also revealed 2,095 more Britons had been diagnosed with the virus, taking the country’s total cases past 270,000.
NHS England chiefs today recorded 149 more coronavirus deaths in hospitals, while Scotland posted 15, Wales 10 and Northern Ireland three across all settings, including care homes.
The remaining deaths are thought to have occurred in care homes in England – where the crisis is still raging on – and in the wider community. It means the official number of victims UK-wide is now 38,161.
Health chiefs yesterday announced 377 Covid-19 fatalities in all settings – taking the average daily death toll over the past week to 252, down from the record high of 943 recorded during the peak of the crisis in mid-April. For comparison, 351 deaths were announced last Friday.
Number 10’s top scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance also warned Britain’s crucial R-rate – the number of people an infected patient will pass the virus on to – is still close to one. In a downbeat Downing Street press conference, he warned the numbers were ‘not coming down fast’.
MailOnline today published an interactive module that allows you to find out exactly how many people have died of Covid-19 in your area, based on government data. Birmingham is the local authority with the most fatalities in England and Wales (1,047). The Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall is the only place to have had no deaths.
It came after a separate analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data revealed 18 local authorities in England and Wales, such as North Somerset, Kettering, Preston, Wrexham and Carlisle, have yet to suffer their darkest days of the crisis – despite the national crisis having slowed significantly.
In other coronavirus developments today:
- Boris Johnson sparked confusion again after Number 10 admitted coronavirus threat level has not been reduced despite the Prime Minister’s decision to ease lockdown from Monday;
- A Government adviser said halving the two-metre social distancing rule will have no significant impact on risk of spreading coronavirus as ministers say pubs with gardens could reopen in July;
- The BBC has launched an official probe into Emily Maitlis’ rant about Dominic Cummings after receiving 20,000 complaints, with the corporation accusing her of ‘overstepping the mark’;
- People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus will not be told who has named them when they are asked to self-isolate for two weeks, it was revealed;
- Firms must pay 20 per cent of wages for furloughed staff from August, Rishi Sunak is expected to say as he starts to wind down the government’s massive coronavirus bailouts.
Separate figures published today showed the number of Covid-19 deaths in the UK has passed 48,000 – which is 27 per cent higher than the official tally given by the Department of Health.
DH only counts victims who have tested positive for the virus, whereas the statistical bodies that analyse data in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all include suspected deaths in weekly tallies.
But other models suggest the true number of fatalities caused by coronavirus is in the region of 60,000, when ‘excess deaths’ – how many more people have died than on average – are taken into account.
Ministers admit ‘excess deaths’ are the most reliable measure of how many fatalities the coronavirus has actually contributed to. They include people who have died because of indirect effects of the outbreak.
Data published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency today showed 716 deaths involving Covid-19 had occurred across the country up to May 22.
The latest figures from the National Records of Scotland, published on Wednesday, showed 3,779 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Scotland up to May 24.
And the latest figures from the ONS, published on Tuesday, showed 42,173 deaths involving Covid-19 occurred in England and Wales up to May 15.
Together these figures mean, so far, 46,668 deaths have occurred in the UK where the coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.
A further 1,408 hospital patients in England who had tested positive for Covid-19 died between May 16 and May 27, according to figures published on Thursday by NHS England.
It means, together with the total figure of 46,668 registered deaths, indicates the overall death toll for the UK is now just over 48,000.
Despite the rising death toll, Boris Johnson yesterday set out a significant loosening of restrictions which will enable up to half a dozen people from different households to mix outside and in gardens from June 1, as primary schools reopen and non-essential shops prepare to follow suit.
The four Home Nations now have significantly different sets of lockdown rules in place. For example, in England from Monday six people can meet up outdoors but in Scotland from today it is eight people
But scientists are becoming increasingly outspoken over the Government’s approach as they warn ministers that the pandemic is far from over.
It came as Mr Johnson faced questions over his decision to ease lockdown as it emerged that the Government has not lowered its coronavirus alert level.
Despite the PM saying the government’s five tests have been met and it is safe to start relaxing restrictions, No10 confirmed today that the alert level remains at four.
Mr Johnson suggested to MPs on Wednesday that the alert was ‘coming down’ from four to three and he was ‘hoping’ a decision would be taken yesterday.
Ministers have insisted throughout that the lockdown would only be eased when the five tests were met. However, the government has also set up the Covid alert system which describes what people can expect to happen at each level. Level four requires ‘current social distancing measures and restrictions’.
No10 insisted the government’s steps for England were taken on the basis of the five tests, and the Joint Biosecurity Centre is in charge of the alert level. However, it is understood no announcement is expected today, and sources declined to say whether one would come before Monday.
There was no alert status slide used at the daily Downing Street briefing last night, and Mr Johnson did not refer to the level. Labour said ministers urgently need to explain how the lifting of restrictions fits with the alert system.
How many people have died of Covid-19 in YOUR area? Birmingham has had more than 1,000 coronavirus fatalities – as analysis shows 18 areas in England and Wales have yet to see a peak in deaths
Government data has revealed an area-by-area breakdown of where the most and fewest people have died of the coronavirus since the outbreak began.
Birmingham is the local authority with the most Covid-19 fatalities in England and Wales, and the only one to have recorded more than 1,000 victims (1,047).
Meanwhile, Leeds, Durham and Liverpool have all recorded more than 500 deaths each since the beginning of the pandemic – 574, 516 and 509, respectively.
Only one local authority has recorded no deaths at all – the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall, which are home to just 2,000 people.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data has set out the areas where the most and fewest people have been killed by the virus by May 15, when the total for England and Wales was 41,047.
While the national outbreak is believed to be past its peak, there are 18 areas where Covid-19 fatalities still appear to be on the rise.
Local authorities including North Somerset, Kettering Preston, Doncaster, Wrexham and Carlisle, have yet to suffer their darkest days of the crisis, according to a separate analysis of the ONS data.
North Somerset recorded 24 coronavirus deaths in that week – up from 16 in the seven-day spell before. The area includes Weston General Hospital, which dramatically shut its doors to new patients on Monday following a spike in coronavirus patients.
It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed earlier this week that ‘local lockdowns’ could be imposed on whole towns if there are regional flare-ups of coronavirus cases.
Eighteen councils in Britain have not yet seen their coronavirus death peak and many saw more people die in the week from May 9 to May 15 than at any other point in the outbreak so far. One of them was North Somerset, where Weston-super-Mare had to close its hospital because of a rampant spread of the disease
Most of the deaths recorded in the ONS’s figures happened in hospitals – 26,679 – with the most hospital deaths occurring in Birmingham, where there were 784.
This was followed by the London borough of Brent, with 368.
Meanwhile 11,632 people died in care homes in England and Wales, the biggest proportion of which was the 243 residents who died in County Durham.
The most recent data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that 18 local authorities recorded their highest weekly death toll in the seven-day spell that ended May 15.
In Doncaster the number of people dying of the coronavirus has remained relatively stable for the past six weeks and had not started to drop by May 15.
A total of 31 people died in that week, from May 9 to May 15, which was the same as the tally counted a fortnight earlier – and the joint highest so far.
The week before had suggested a drop, with the figure falling from 31 to 18, but it bounced back again showing the area is still battling the virus.
At least half a dozen areas showed the same pattern – a one week drop in fatalities followed by a resurgence – which may have been a result of the VE Day bank holiday on May 8. Statisticians warned that deaths do not get registered properly on bank holidays and the statistics for the weeks surrounding them may be inaccurate.
In a data release the ONS said: ‘The early May Bank Holiday contributed to both the decrease in the number of deaths registered in Week 19 and the increase in the number of deaths registered in Week 20, as deaths were unlikely to be registered on Friday 8 May.
THE 10 AREAS WITH THE MOST AMOUNT OF COVID-19 DEATHS
3. County Durham
7. Aneurin Bevan UHB
10. Cardiff and Vale UHB
ONS figures up to May 15
THE 10 AREAS WITH THE FEWEST AMOUNT OF COVID-19 DEATHS
1. Isles of Scilly
2. City of London
6. South Hams
7. Mid Devon
8. West Devon
10. West Lindsey
10. Isle of Anglesey
‘Next week’s report will allow a better assessment of recent trends in the number of all-cause deaths and deaths related to COVID.’
Ashford in Kent saw its weekly death toll drop from 14 to eight and then back up to 19 for the week ending May 15 – that was its highest one-week number of the epidemic.
THE 18 AREAS YET TO SEE THEIR PEAK
TOTAL CASES: 775
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 599.5
TOTAL DEATHS: 78
TOTAL CASES: 295
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 227.9
TOTAL DEATHS: 53
TOTAL CASES: 492
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 453.9
TOTAL DEATHS: 109
Doncaster, South Yorkshire
TOTAL CASES: 765
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 246.3
TOTAL DEATHS: 160
TOTAL CASES: 102
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 192.9
TOTAL DEATHS: 36
TOTAL CASES: 186
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 183.3
TOTAL DEATHS: 52
TOTAL CASES: 439
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 228.5
TOTAL DEATHS: 84
Hinckley and Bosworth, Leicestershire
TOTAL CASES: 242
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 215.3
TOTAL DEATHS: 73
TOTAL CASES: 235
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 232.1
TOTAL DEATHS: 55
TOTAL CASES: 427
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 199.6
TOTAL DEATHS: 94
TOTAL CASES: 428
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 301.8
TOTAL DEATHS: 86
Richmondshire, North Yorkshire
TOTAL CASES: 130
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 244.2
TOTAL DEATHS: 38
Rother, East Sussex
TOTAL CASES: 95
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 99.3
TOTAL DEATHS: 38
Selby, North Yorkshire
TOTAL CASES: 135
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 151.5
TOTAL DEATHS: 36
TOTAL CASES: 239
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 173.2
TOTAL DEATHS: 42
Tonbridge and Malling, Kent
TOTAL CASES: 216
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 165.5
TOTAL DEATHS: 48
Wrexham, North Wales
TOTAL CASES: 540
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 396.7
TOTAL DEATHS: 252 (figure covers Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which serves other towns in the area)
TOTAL CASES: 345
CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 310.2
TOTAL DEATHS: 72
Many of the areas’ record high death tolls could be averaged out with the week before to arrive at a similar figure to recent weeks.
But North Somerset did not follow the same trend. Instead, after weeks of relatively steady death tolls in the mid-teens, its number for the week ending May 15 surged from 16 to 24.
This is likely because the coronavirus outbreak there has worsened in recent weeks. The general hospital in Weston-super-Mare, a seaside town in the district, had to close to new patients this week because of Covid-19.
Infection rates were found to be high in both staff and patients so the hospital shut its doors to new admissions in a desperate bid to get a handle on the crisis.
Workers at the hospital forced to close due to a Covid-19 outbreak were the first to be contacted by the government’s Test and Trace programme today – as it emerged twice as many staff have the virus than patients.
Boris Johnson used Weston Hospital as an instance where the Government ‘moved very quickly to close things down there to try to sort it out’.
He added: ‘That is the kind of whack-a-mole tactics that we are going to use as we keep driving the virus down and keep reducing the incidents.’
The hospital in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, is believed to have 135 members of staff infected compared to 64 patients.
Those workers were among the 2,013 people who tested positive for the virus on Wednesday and who were contacted as part of the Test and Trace system rolled out across England and Scotland this morning.
The scheme is designed to find anyone who has come into contact with an infected person so they can be told to isolate for 14-days even if they are not sick.
Weston General shut its doors on Monday and is unlikely to admit any new patients for at least another week while it deals with the current outbreak. All members of staff are currently undergoing testing for Covid-19 which is set to be completed by the weekend.
Speaking to the BBC, Robert Woolley, chief executive of University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trusts said an investigation was under way to find out the cause of the spike in staff infections.
He said: ‘The question is, have we had patients bringing the infection into hospital when they arrive and staff are getting infected that way?
‘Or are staff coming in from the community infected and infecting themselves and possibly others? We just don’t know.
‘It’s very complex and we need help from other agencies to know what the position is in greater Weston.’
A number of factors behind the spike are being considered, including claims that emerged today of hospital staff not being routinely informed by managers when their colleagues tested positive for the virus – even those who had previously shown no symptoms.
But North Somerset is not alone in terms of high coronavirus deaths.
Those areas yet to see their peak include Ashford, Kent; Broadland, Norfolk; Carlisle, Cumbria; Doncaster, South Yorkshire; Eden, Cumbria; Fenland, Cambridgeshire; Herefordshire; Hinckley and Bosworth, Leicestershire; Kettering, Northamptonshire; and North Somerset.
Other areas are Preston, Lancashire; Richmondshire, North Yorkshire; Rother, East Sussex; Selby, North Yorkshire; South Norfolk; Tonbridge and Malling, Kent; Wrexham, North Wales; and Wyre, Lancashire.
It comes as the Prime Minister tonight gave the green light to the first limited socialising since lockdown, revealing that up to six people can now meet outdoors and in private gardens for barbecues – as long as they stay six feet away from each other.
Mr Johnson revealed that the restrictions are being eased slightly from next week, as he formally reduced the country’s Covid ‘alert’ status from four to three.
Despite warnings from chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance that 8,000 new infections are still happening every day and admitting making the rules more nuanced will create ‘anomalies and inconsistencies’, Mr Johnson unveiled a series of changes to take effect in England from Monday.
Up to six people from different households will be allowed to mix, opening the prospect of reunions for family and friends – although they will still be told to obey social distancing rules. They will also be permitted to use gardens and private outdoor spaces, which was previously banned.
Non-essential shops and primary schools will start to reopen from next month, as had been suggested earlier in the week.
Mr Johnson told the daily Downing Street briefing: ‘I cannot and I will not throw away all the gains we have made together. So the changes that we have made are limited and cautious.’
It comes after Britons were last night warned not to get carried away with news that lockdown is loosening because the virus’ R-rate is still dangerously close to 1.
The Government’s top scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance revealed the current R-rate is between 0.7 and 0.9, and while coronavirus case numbers were declining, they are ‘not coming down fast’ in a downbeat update at tonight’s Downing Street press conference.
The reproduction rate denotes the number of other people an infected patient will pass the sickness on to and it must stay at 1 or below or Britain will face another crisis. However, the way the R is calculated means it is out of date, and the latest calculation is based on data from around three weeks ago – before the lockdown loosened.
‘The current value is somewhere between 0.7 and 0.9, so it remains close to one. It may very close to one in some areas,’ said Sir Patrick. ‘The numbers are coming down at the moment, but they are not coming down fast.’
The number of people dying in April each year has remained relative stable at around 40,000 or the last 13 years, but saw a massive spike to 88,000 this year as the coronavirus epidemic raged through the UK
HOW DO KEY CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK STATISTICS COMPARE THIS AND LAST WEEK?
% of people infected:
Total currently infected:
New cases per week:
New cases per day:
% of ventilators used*:
New positive tests*:
LAST WEEK (MAY 21)
0.7 – 1.0
THIS WEEK (MAY 28)
0.7 – 0.9
* refers to daily figures announced in the Downing Street press conference, whereas the other data is given by the Office for National Statistics on a weekly basis