The true death toll of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK could be 24 per cent higher than NHS figures show, according to statistics released today.
Patients who had COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificates numbered 210 in England and Wales up to March 20, the Office for National Statistics revealed.
This was 24 per cent higher than the 170 deaths recorded by NHS England and Public Health Wales during the same time frame.
If the ratio has stayed true since that time, the true current number of fatalities could be around 1,739 instead of the official 1,408.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has launched a new data series adding in the numbers of people who have died with or after having COVID-19 in the community, including those who died in care homes or their own houses.
Coronavirus was not necessarily the cause of death for every one of the patients, but was believed to have been a factor.
The statistics show that only one of the UK’s first 108 coronavirus victims was under the age of 44. 60 per cent of them were men and 93 per cent were aged over 65.
The data does not include Scotland or Northern Ireland – up to March 20, eight people had died in the those countries (six in Scotland, two in Northern Ireland), suggesting the true figure could have been 10.
Anyone who has the virus – for which at least 22,141 people have tested positive in the UK – mentioned on their death certificate will be included in the weekly statistics.
This adds to the daily updates coming from NHS hospitals around the country where adults of all ages are dying in intensive care units.
It comes after it was revealed that King’s College Hospital in London has had three times as many deaths as official figures show and there are concerns the true figure is days or even weeks behind because of how long it takes to confirm cases and get families’ consent to release details.
In France, senior officials have admitted they expect their national count is wrong because of delays and unreported deaths happening outside of hospitals.
Medical staff wearing protective equipment are pictured removing a patient from the back of an ambulance at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, which is at the centre of the UK’s coronavirus crisis
The ONS statistics showed that COVID-19 was linked to one per cent of all deaths in England and Wales between March 13 and 20
All ages of adults have died with coronavirus since the UK’s epidemic began earlier this year. No children have been killed by the illness and over-85s are the most frequent victims
The ONS showed that a total 210 deaths in England and Wales that occurred up to and including March 20 (and which were registered up to March 25) had COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate.
This compares with 170 coronavirus-related deaths reported by NHS England and Public Health Wales up to and including March 20.
The majority of the deaths reported by health authorities around the UK have taken place in the 10 days since March 20.
During that period the fatality total has risen almost 10-fold from 177 to 1,408.
While statistics have until now only counted people dying in NHS hospitals, new counts will show any death that medics link to the virus, wherever it happens.
Death tolls around the UK are expected to soar in the coming days and weeks as people who caught the virus before the country was put into lockdown succumb to the disease.
It can take up to three weeks before somebody is killed by COVID-19, suggesting there could be another fortnight before the effects of last Monday’s travel restrictions start to show.
It has been one week since Britons were told not to go outside unless it was necessary.
As well as a delay between people catching the virus and dying, there can also be lags between someone’s death and it being officially announced.
NHS staff have to test critically ill patients more than once to confirm they have the disease, and must also notify the family and get consent to share details if they die.
Death statistics being shared by NHS hospitals have already shown time lags of 10 days or more.
Coronavirus has been linked to the largest proportion of deaths in London, but COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in all regions of England and Wales
The ONS’s data is showing a moving death count significantly higher than the one used in the daily Government updates, because it includes all people who have COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate, whether or not they have been officially diagnosed or hospitalised
A refrigerated mortuary is pictured at the Nightingale Hospital in central London
A makeshift hospital has been set up in London at the ExCel London, the Nightingale Hospital, to cope with a surge in coronavirus patients
Paramedics wearing protective gear wheel a patient into an ambulance at St Thomas’ Hospital in London
A paramedic is pictured in the back of an ambulance at a hospital in London, which is at the heart of the UK’s fast-growing coronavirus epidemic
ENERGY FIRMS BATTLE STAFF SHORTAGES TO KEEP BRITAIN’S LIGHTS ON
Britons have been warned of the potential for blackouts amid concerns that staff shortages could lead to issues with the country’s power network.
Fears are growing that high levels of staff sickness during the coronavirus outbreak, mixed with the Government’s self-isolation rules, could lead to a shortage of engineers.
The National Grid insists that the network is able to cope.
But one electrical infrastructure firm has now written to some of its most vulnerable customers warning them to keep torches and warm clothes nearby in case of power cuts.
UK Power Networks, which owns and maintains the electricity cables in the South East and East of England, as well as London, has written to priority customers, including pensioners and those with young children, telling them what to do if their homes are hit with a power cut.
The advice, reported in The Daily Telegraph today, includes ‘keeping a torch handy’ and ‘reducing heat loss by closing doors on unused rooms’.
Customers are also advised to have a ‘hat, gloves and a blanket to hand to keep warm’ and, where possible, to keep a corded telephone in the house, as well as a power bank to recharge mobile phones.
The advice comes as many electricity firms across the UK put non-essential infrastructure work on hold.
Companies have also implemented emergency strategies to deal with the knock-on effects of Covid-19, which has infected more than 20,000 people in the UK.
The ONS stats come after the number of patients being treated in hospital for COVID-19 doubled in less than a week.
Head of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, said that more than 9,000 people were in hospital with coronavirus on Monday, up from 4,300 on Thursday.
Positive test numbers are still soaring – more than 10,000 people have been diagnosed in the past four days – but the death toll appears to be levelling off.
Down from the daily maximum of 260 deaths announced on Saturday, March 28, only 180 fatalities were recorded yesterday, Monday, March 30.
The ONS statistics about the nation’s first 108 deaths revealed that 73 per cent of them were over the age of 75.
They show that 59 per cent of the victims up to March 20 were male – a total of 64 out of 108 – while 44 women died.
Only one person under the age of 44 was counted among the fatalities and 73 per cent (79 people) were over the age of 75.
There were 45 deaths among over-85s; 34 deaths in the 75-84 age group; 21 deaths between 65 and 74; seven for 45 to 64-year-olds; and one between 15 and 44. There were none among children.
The single hardest-hit age group was men over 85, among whom there were 27 fatalities. There were 20 among men aged 75-84, and 18 for female over-85s.
London had the most deaths of any region, with 44 people succumbing to the disease – 41 per cent of the national total.
Second worst hit was South East England, with 19 deaths – the first recorded hospital death was in a woman in the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.
And there were 16 deaths in the East of England. The North East and South West of England only recorded one death each, and just two happened in Wales.
The ONS’s statistics add an element of detail not provided in current figures from the NHS and Department of Health by keeping a running tally of people’s ages, sexes and location.
CORONAVIRUS CRISIS GIVES SUPERMARKETS BUSIEST MONTH EVER
British supermarkets were the busiest they have ever been this month, with sales 20.6 per cent up on the previous year amid the coronavirus panic-buying craze.
Shoppers spent £10.8billion in supermarkets in the four weeks to March 22, bringing sales levels even higher than during the Christmas period.
New data reveals Britons spent an extra £1.9billion on groceries than they normally do at this time of year and made 79million extra shopping trips.
The week before the Prime Minister put the country on lockdown on March 23 was the busiest, with sales up 43 per cent on last year.
Figures show that 88 per cent of British households visited the shops between March 16 and 19, making an average of five trips each.
Sainsbury’s had the biggest growth in year-on-year sales at 22.4 per cent, followed by Tesco with 20.1 per cent, Morrisons with 19.3 per cent and Asda with 17.2 per cent. Online grocery sales were also up 14 per cent on last year.
MailOnline has contacted Lidl, Aldi, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Ocado and The Co-op for their sales figures.
Britons have been flooding to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons to stockpile essential goods ever since coronavirus cases started to snowball in the UK.
It also includes deaths which happen outside of hospitals, but does not clearly divide the data.
Commenting on the release, Professor David Leon, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘What ONS has done is important as it starts to provide a more complete picture of the impact of COVID-19 on mortality.
‘However, deaths which have COVID-19 as a cause on the death certificate that occur among people who were not tested for COVID-19 may misclassify them as such.
‘On the other hand untested deaths that were precipitated by COVID-19 may still go unrecognised.’
Professor Keith Neal, from the University of Nottingham, added: ‘I support the reporting of new figures but there is now a danger of the death figures becoming increasingly difficult to interpret.
‘We now have figures for the UK, England and Wales and the four separate administrations.’
Statistics from NHS hospitals and public health authorities show that 1,284 out of the UK’s 1,408 recorded COVID-19 deaths have happened in England.
In addition, 62 people have died in Wales, 41 in Scotland and 21 in Northern Ireland.
Fears that the UK’s coronavirus death toll was being underreported emerged last week when senior French politicians said their country likely had more fatalities than it was letting on.
For every UK death, the patient’s family must give permission for authorities to share it, raising the prospect of some fatalities going unreported at the family’s request or being recorded late – some of the deaths announced today happened 10 days ago.
And people dying in care homes or in their own houses could also be going undiagnosed because they aren’t managed by NHS hospital trusts.
The concern ties into controversy over the Government’s policy of only testing people in hospitals, which means the true scale of the UK’s coronavirus outbreak is unknown.
A French health chief had warned vulnerable patients in France are likely to be dying from the coronavirus out of sight.
Frederic Valletoux, president of the French Hospitals Federation, said coronavirus deaths outside of mainstream hospitals are probably going unnoticed and unrecorded, masking the true scale of the pandemic.
Mr Valletoux, speaking on France Info radio, said: ‘We only know the data provided by hospitals.
‘The increase in the official data is already major, but the absolute numbers would no doubt be effectively much higher if we aggregated what is happening in retirement homes as well as the people who die at home or who are not counted.’
The same situation could be unfolding in the UK, which is recording deaths in the same way.
NHS England has confirmed that the death toll announced by the Government every day is a collection of data from hospitals across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But many elderly people, who are the ones most likely to die if they catch the coronavirus, die outside of hospital.
According to the charity Age UK, some 400,000 people live in residential care homes and around 3.8million over-65s live on their own.
Such vulnerable people have been urged to stay at home and may be dying at home or in homes where coronavirus testing is not widespread.
As well as this, the NHS needs the permission of the family of every victim whose death it can report.
This means some deaths may never get published, while others come late – of the 113 new deaths announced in the UK on Thursday, March 26, for example, some dated back as far as March 16.
President of the French Hospitals Federation, Frederic Valletoux (pictured), said his country’s death toll is too low because only hospital patients are counted – the same policy is being used in the UK, raising the prospect of an inaccurate death toll
French health agency chief Jérôme Salomon said on Tuesday that authorities would soon be able to tally retirement home deaths, which it expected to result in a big increase in registered fatalities.
It is not clear whether the same policy will be adopted in the UK, where widespread testing is still not available.
In a bid to deal with the huge numbers of people getting ill with coronavirus, the UK Government has announced it’s building three temporary hospitals, in London, Manchester and Birmingham.
The first, the Nightingale Hospital at London’s ExCel conference centre in Newham, is almost complete already and expected to open this week.
It will be used to treat patients who were previously fit and healthy and are at a lower risk of dying from the disease, while more serious patients will be put in hospitals, The Guardian reports.
Supermarkets have had their busiest month ever in March, with coronavirus panic-buyers helping them to rake in more than £10billion
Sir Simon Stevens (pictured at the NHS Nightingale) more than 9,000 people were in hospital with coronavirus on Monday, up from 4,300 on Thursday
There will be 500 beds there to begin with but it has the capacity to cope with 4,000 patients.
A senior doctor with knowledge of the government’s planned response told the newspaper: ‘There is a two-tier system but it’s a medically appropriate two-tier system,.
‘The sick will go to the ExCel and the very sick will stay in hospital, because that’s an appropriate use of NHS resources.
‘Anyone who goes to either place will be critically ill, be suffering lung failure and be on life support through a ventilator.’
‘But those at the ExCel will be those needing less life support as they will be the ones with nothing else wrong with them,’ the doctor added.
Almost two thirds of patients who fall seriously ill from coronavirus are obese and nearly 40 per cent are under the age of 60, an NHS audit has revealed.
Sixty-three per cent of patients in intensive care in UK hospitals because of the killer virus are overweight, obese or morbidly obese.
While the average age of people suffering the most serious symptoms of coronavirus is 64, 37 per cent are under the age of 60.
The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre analysed all admissions to critical care units in the UK up until midnight last Thursday.
The ExCel London Centre is being refitted to take hundreds of beds with oxygen and ventilators as the number of cases in Britain continues to grow.
As the hospital prepares to open, grim pictures have shown the inside of the makeshift hospital’s refrigerated mortuary.
The hospital is due to open this week, just as work has begun to transform the Welsh rugby stadium into a 500-bed hospital for coronavirus patients.