The Government was accused last night of underplaying the coronavirus death toll after it emerged more than 1,000 people died every day in the UK for 22 consecutive days.
The figures, which reflect deaths in hospitals, care homes and private homes, dwarf those that were announced by ministers at the time, which only took hospital fatalities into account.
Fresh analysis has shown that there were more than 1,000 deaths a day for 22 consecutive days – coinciding with Boris Johnson’s hospitalisation for coronavirus.
Sir David King, the former government chief scientific adviser and chairman of the independent Sage group, told the Guardian the discrepancy in the numbers was ‘an attempt to play down the adversity that the country was faced with’.
Britain’s worst day during the crisis came on April 8, just before Easter, when a record 1,445 people died in 24 hours.
When Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stepped in for the hospitalised Boris Johnson on April 9 to reveal the figures from the previous day, he announced the number of deaths had risen by 881 – meaning the true tally was some 64 per cent greater than the nation was told at the time.
Fresh analysis has shown that there were more than 1,000 deaths a day for 22 consecutive days
The Government has been accused of underplaying the coronavirus death toll after it emerged more than 1,000 people died every day in the UK for 22 consecutive days
Similarly, just three days earlier, Mr Raab described the increase in fatalities in the previous 24 hours as 439, but official figures show that almost three times as many people actually died from the virus.
Between April 2 and April 23, more than 1,000 people fell victim to the virus each day but none of the Downing Street briefings in that time suggested the number of daily deaths had reached four figures.
Critics argue the Government should have been clearer in explaining the daily death tolls were only estimates of the real tallies, given the exclusion of thousands who died out of hospitals.
A change to include deaths in all settings, including those without a Covid-19 test, was only made at the end of April with health bosses insisting collating the full data was time-consuming and technically challenging.
In the two months since, the daily death toll has dropped substantially, sometimes even to just double figures, now the peak of the crisis has passed.
This has resulted in an easing of some lockdown measures, with non-essential shops opening this week for the first time since March, albeit with a range of social distancing measures.
Yesterday, 173 deaths were announced, with experts describing the virus as ‘firmly in retreat’.
When Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stepped in for the hospitalised Boris Johnson on April 9 to reveal the figures from the previous day, pictured, he announced the number of deaths had risen by 881 – but the true tally was some 64 per cent greater than the nation was told at the time
Boris Johnson, pictured at a school in Hertfordshire yesterday, was one of several ministers to have announced daily death tolls that have now proven to be much lower than the actual figure
Sir David King, pictured, he former government chief scientific adviser and chairman of the independent Sage group, told the Guardian the discrepancy in the numbers was ‘an attempt to play down the adversity that the country was faced with’
Sir David King, who was the government’s chief scientist from 2000-2007, has previously accused the government of blundering by trying to pursue a ‘herd immunity’ policy that would have kept the economy going.
He said; ‘They didn’t say we have to add on all these other numbers which would have been a more honest thing to say.
‘This is the most disastrous handling of any serious challenge to a government for 100 years.’
In an interview with Channel 4 News, he added: ‘The message that goes across when we reduce [the alert level] from four to three in this way is we seem to be winning the battle but the number of cases per day is still very high for the whole of England.’
Asked if the science was being massaged to follow the politics, he said: ‘I very much fear that is the case. I think that we know the scientists were resisting the change of the alert number from four to three before and the politicians were pushing very hard for that to happen.
‘I’m really questioning whether we’ve been following the science from the very beginning.’
He said the test and trace system needs improving, arguing that only around 25-30% per cent of cases are being identified when ‘we need to be up there’ with 85 per cent.
A government spokesperson insisted ministers had always been ‘transparent’ about reporting Covid-19 deaths and said it was ‘wrong to suggest we would in any way attempt to play down the scale of this global pandemic’.
A back-series of daily death tolls has subsequently been published by the Department of Health and Social Care.
It was recently revealed that April was the deadliest month on record in England and Wales, according to official statistics that lay bare the true toll of the coronavirus crisis.
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
The Covid-19 pandemic doubled the rate of deaths from all causes in England and Wales in April, data showed today. 8,180 people died as a direct result of the coronavirus during the worst week, from April 11 to 17
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE DEADLIEST MONTHS ON RECORD?
April 2020 was the month in which England and Wales recorded more people’s deaths, of any cause, than at any other point since current records began in 2006.
It is the only month featuring in the worst 10 that has not been in the depths of winter – eight of the 10 were in January and one was in December.
These are the 10 months which had the highest death tolls:
- April 2020: 88,153 people died
- January 2018: 64,154
- January 2015: 60,891
- January 2017: 57,368
- January 2016: 56,706
- January 2009: 55,045
- January 2019: 53,910
- December 2008: 53,594
- January 2013: 52,898
- January 2008: 52,057
Data shows 88,153 people died across the two countries – more than double the amount recorded last April (44,123) or before the outbreak spiralled out of control in February 2020 (43,653).
The figure, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows the arrival of Covid-19 on British shores led to people dying at twice the rate they would in a normal month.
In London this effect was even worse, with startling figures showing the number of people who died in April was triple what it was in the same month last year.
The statistics came as a grim analysis by the Financial Times claimed Britain has suffered the highest excess death rate of any comparable country during the coronavirus pandemic.
It showed the 59,537 excess deaths counted since the outbreak began amounted to 891 deaths per million people. This was higher than any other country in Western Europe or the US, with Italy at just below 800 per million.
The month-by-month data showed that in January this year, 56,706 people died in England and Wales, which was high but not unheard of for winter.
That was followed by 46,653 in February and 49,723 in March.
April, however, brought a huge spike to 88,153 – 0.15 per cent of the entire population.
Regionally the biggest increase in deaths between April last year and April this year happened in London, where it rose 197 per cent from 4,102 to 12,175.
It also more than doubled in the West Midlands, which is centred around Birmingham, from 4,527 to 9,932 (119 per cent).
And in the North West, including Lancashire, Cumbria and Manchester, it rose by 112 per cent from 5,835 to 12,354.
Britain announces 173 more Covid-19 deaths with virus ‘firmly in retreat’ as health chiefs confirm the outbreak is shrinking by 4% each day and the crucial R rate remains below the dreaded level of one
Britain yesterday announced 173 more coronavirus deaths including a 12-year-old, as government scientists confirmed the outbreak is in retreat with the number of new cases shrinking by 4 per cent each day and the crucial R rate remaining below the dreaded level of one.
Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE revealed the reproduction rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – is still between 0.7 and 0.9, meaning the coronavirus is firmly in retreat after terrorizing Britain for months. It must stay below one or Britain will face another crisis.
Separate data released for the first time yesterday also claimed the UK’s current growth rate – how the number of new daily cases is changing day-by-day – could be as low as minus 4 per cent. If the rate becomes greater than zero, the disease could once again spiral out of control.
Department of Health officials say the death toll now stands at 42,461. But the tally only includes lab-confirmed patients — unlike other damning figures that take into account all suspected deaths and show the actual number of victims has already topped 50,000.
Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE revealed the reproduction rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – is still between 0.7 and 0.9, meaning the coronavirus is firmly in retreat after terrorizing Britain for months. It must stay below one or Britain will face another crisis. Separate data released for the first time yesterday also claimed the UK’s current growth rate – how the number of new daily cases is changing day-by-day – could be as low as minus 4 per cent. If the rate becomes greater than zero, the disease could once again spiral out of control
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE REALLY DIED?
Department of Health: 42,461
Department of Health’s latest death count for all settings stands at 42,461.
The daily data does not represent how many Covid-19 patients died within the last 24 hours — it is only how many fatalities have been reported and registered with the authorities.
It also only takes into account patients who tested positive for the virus, as opposed to deaths suspected to be down to the coronavirus.
Individual health bodies: 32,710
The Department of Health has a different time cut-off for reporting deaths, meaning daily updates from Scotland as well as Northern Ireland are always out of sync. Wales is not affected, however.
NHS England today revealed it has registered 28,221 lab-confirmed deaths across the country. But the figure only applies to hospitals — meaning fatalities in care homes are excluded from this count.
Scotland has recorded 2,470 coronavirus deaths among patients who have tested positive for the virus, followed by 1,475 in Wales and 544 in Northern Ireland. These tolls include fatalities in all settings.
National statistical bodies: 52,664
Data compiled by the statistical bodies of each of the home nations show 52,664 people died of either confirmed or suspected Covid-19 across the UK by the end of May.
The real number of victims will be even higher because the tally only takes into account deaths that occurred up until June 7 in Scotland and June 5 in the rest of Britain, meaning it is up to 10 days out of date.
The Office for National Statistics yesterday confirmed that 47,820 people in England and Wales died with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 by May 29.
The number of coronavirus deaths was 774 by the same day in Northern Ireland, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).
National Records Scotland — which collects statistics north of the border — said 4,070 people had died across the country by June 7.
Their tallies are always 10 days behind the Department of Health (DH) because they wait until as many fatalities as possible for each date have been counted, to avoid having to revise their statistics.
Excess deaths: 64,402
The total number of excess deaths has now passed 64,000.
Excess deaths are considered to be an accurate measure of the number of people killed by the pandemic because they include a broader spectrum of victims.
As well as including people who may have died with Covid-19 without ever being tested, the data also shows how many more people died because their medical treatment was postponed, for example, or who didn’t or couldn’t get to hospital when they were seriously ill.
Data from England and Wales shows there has been an extra 58,693 deaths between March 21 and June 5, as well as 4,769 in Scotland between March 23 and June 7 and 940 in Northern Ireland between March 21 and June 5.
The number of daily Covid-19 victims announced represents a 14 per cent drop on the 202 recorded this time last week and is the lowest figure recorded on a Friday since March 20, three days before the draconian lockdown was imposed to halt the spread of the disease.
Nicola Sturgeon claimed the coronavirus was ‘firmly in retreat’ and Boris Johnson hinted at an imminent shift on the strict two-metre social distancing rule, after the UK’s Covid-19 threat level was dramatically reduced from four to three.
And the chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust – England’s largest hospital organisation – revealed there are no Covid-19 patients in its intensive care for the first time since the pandemic began, adding that coronavirus-infected Brits ‘don’t seem as sick as they were’.
Government scientists published growth rate data for the first time yesterday. Until now, SAGE had only provided details on the R rate – the average number of people an infected person is likely to pass the virus on to.
For the UK as a whole, the current growth rate is minus 4 per cent to minus 2 per cent and the estimate of the reproduction number, referred to as R, remains at 0.7 to 0.9.
The growth rate reflects how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, and, as the number of infections decreases, is another way of keeping track of the virus.
If the growth rate is greater than zero, and therefore positive, then the disease will grow, and if the growth rate is less than zero, then the disease will shrink.
It is an approximation of the change in the number of infections each day, and the size of the growth rate indicates the speed of change. It takes into account various data sources, including government-run Covid-19 surveillance testing schemes.
For example, a growth rate of 5 per cent is faster than a growth rate of 1 per cent, while a disease with a growth rate of minus 4 per cent will be shrinking faster than a disease with growth rate of minus 1 per cent.
R estimates – which are at least three weeks behind – do not indicate how quickly an epidemic is changing and different diseases with the same R can result in epidemics that grow at very different speeds.
Growth rates provide different information from R estimates, by suggesting the size and speed of change, whereas the R value only gives data on the direction of change.
To calculate R, information on the time it takes for one set of people in an infected group to infect a new set of people in the next group is needed.
However, the growth rate is estimated using a range of data similar to R, but it does not depend on the ‘generation time’ and so requires fewer assumptions to estimate.
Neither measure – R or growth rate – is better than the other but each provides information that is useful in monitoring the spread of a disease. Experts say each should be considered alongside other measures of the spread of disease.
Professor Keith Neal, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Nottingham, said: ‘It is good that R remains below 1 and that the growth rate is negative. As the number of cases falls everybody’s risk falls.’
But he added that it remains unclear how many cases included in these calculations are acquired in either care homes or hospitals – surveillance sampling carried out by the Office for National Statistics published yesterday suggested 3,800 people were being struck down with the virus in the community in England.
Department of Health data released yesterday showed that 169,600 tests were carried out the previous day, a figure that included antibody tests for frontline NHS and care workers.
But bosses again refused to say how many people were tested, meaning the exact number of Brits who have been swabbed for the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been a mystery since May 22.
The SAGE files: Shutting UK’s borders would have ‘little value’ in stopping Covid-19 crisis and immunity passports won’t work without widespread routine testing, latest batch of scientific papers reveal
Scientists steered the Government away from shutting the UK’s borders because it would have had ‘surprisingly little value’ in stopping Covid-19’s spread, secret advice papers published yesterday revealed.
One of the scientific reports presented to ministers in May to help guide them through the crisis said restricting air travel would have virtually no effect because the damage was already done.
If borders were locked down right at the beginning of the pandemic, however, it could have prevented a full-blown crisis, as was seen in the likes of Australia and New Zealand.
Another study found that giving immunity passports to Covid-19 survivors – a measure touted by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in April – would only be safe if these people were also tested every month for antibodies.
The Government was also told in early May that mandatory mask-wearing could help control the crisis by stopping asymptomatic people spreading the disease.
Some 40 documents were yesterday published by the Government Office for Science, which is headed by Sir Patrick Vallance, England’s chief scientific adviser.
They are among dozens in a tranche of papers presented to SAGE, the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, over recent months to help guide ministers through the crisis.
And the reports detail all the scientific advice which is being presented to decision-making officials who dictate when and how the country moves out of lockdown.
The latest batch of SAGE papers, which are being released in a bid to show greater transparency from the Government, come as 173 more deaths have been confirmed.
There have now been a total of 42,461 people who died after testing positive for the coronavirus in the UK, but many more who weren’t tested haven’t yet been counted.
Here, MailOnline takes a look at some of the stand-out papers from today:
UK missed its chance to control the epidemic by shutting its borders
Two separate reports advised the Government not to shut its borders in April and May because the damage was already done in February and March.
One of the studies was a 2006 paper modelling the effect of restricting incoming flights in the event of a highly-infectious flu pandemic.
Researchers from the Health Protection Agency – which ceased operations in 2013 – found ‘restrictions on air travel were likely to be of surprisingly little value in delaying epidemics, unless almost all travel ceases very soon after epidemics are detected’.
One of the studies was a 2006 paper modelling the effect of restricting incoming flights in the event of a highly-infectious flu pandemic. it found that a blanket ban which saw 99.9 per cent of flights grounded at the start of the epidemic would have halted the pandemic significantly
SAGE then handed a separate paper to Government in early May reiterating that there was ‘little scientific justification’ for putting restrictions at the border.
The scientists estimated that fewer than 0.5 per cent of new infections were being imported into the UK in April and May.
It did this by reviewing Home Office data of incoming flights and predicting how many of these passengers were likely to be infectious based on bad epidemics in their home countries were.
SAGE said that current swabbing techniques were too slow, and temperature checks were too unspecific to warrant being set up at airports and borders.
However, the group said that restrictions may need to be put in place in the event global air travel returns to normal and other countries suffer second waves.
It recommended a 14-day quarantine, which is now being implemented by the Home Office, despite huge backlash.
People who get ‘immunity passports’ need to be routinely tested
If immunity passports were issued to allow key workers to return to work, monthly retesting would be critical, scientists said.
Imperial College London researchers presented a paper on Covid-19 immunity to SAGE in April.
The team found no available data about how long antibody responses last after SARS CoV-2 infection, beyond about two weeks after recovery.
Imperial College London researchers presented a paper on Covid-19 immunity to SAGE in April. The team found no available data about how long antibody responses last after SARS CoV-2 infection, beyond about two weeks after recovery
Based on literature for other coronaviruses, mild infections can result in low antibody responses that wane just a couple of months after infection, they warned.
For this reason, SAGE was told that Matt Hancock’s idea of so-called immunity passports would need to be accompanied by routine antibody testing.
Such passports, where people carry documented proof they have immunity because of a past infection, were touted as a possible way to ease lockdown in April.
But the idea appears to have been scrapped because scientists cannot pin-point exactly how long antibodies protect survivors for and current antibody tests have so far proved too inaccurate for widespread use.
Face masks DO work and could help prevent asymptomatic spread
A report on May 4 found compulsory mask-wearing could prevent a significant of coronavirus infections in the UK.
The analysis by DELVE – the Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics group – said if everyone wore them it could prevent 40 to 80 per cent of transmissions.
The multi-disciplinary group, convened by the Royal Society, based its estimates on the fact that between four in 10 and eight in 10 Covid-19 patients show no signs of infection yet remain highly infectious.
It also highlighted the fact that droplets from the mouths of infected people play a major role in spreading the virus, through coughs, sneezes and even just by talking.
DELVE found that home-made coverings could catch between 50 and 70 per cent of viral bacteria being dispersed into the air, while surgical coverings could stop nearly 90 per cent.
The group compared outbreaks in countries where mask-wearing is compulsory compared to nations where it is not and found a huge disparity.
But despite strong evidence for their use since May, the UK Government only last week made masks mandatory on public transport and in hospitals.
Britons are urged to wear them in shops and crowded places, but this is not being enforced.
At least nine in 10 care homes will suffer outbreaks of coronavirus
University of Manchester researchers warned in April that at least 90 per cent of care homes would report at least one case of Covid-19.
Just 20 per cent of care homes had recorded outbreaks at the time of the researchers’ modelling.
They warned that staff were importing the disease into the homes unknowingly, highlighting the need for them to be tested rigorously.
Writing in the study, they said: ‘Staff interact with households and community and so infection can be passed to and from care homes in this manner.
More than 11,000 people are confirmed to have died in care homes as a direct result of Covid-19 and many more are thought to have succumbed to the virus without being diagnosed, meaning they are so far uncounted in official death tolls
‘Estimates of expecting high within care home attack rate remains highly likely.
‘A natural conclusion is that with no change in disease transmission in future we might expect at least 90 per cent of care homes to report at least one case eventually if current reporting trends are maintained (currently about 20 per cent have reported such).’
NHS hospitals discharged 25,000 people into care homes during the peak of Britain’s Covid-19 crisis without testing them for the coronavirus.
The move was ordered to free up beds for an anticipated surge in seriously ill virus patients.
Staff were also not being routinely tested for the disease, which has led to more than 15,000 care home residents dying in England and Wales from Covid-19.
14,000 Britons could die every day in Britain’s worst winter ever
A paper submitted to SAGE on April 25 by Imperial College London looked at how Covid-19 would affect the country during winter.
Even with ‘good compliance’ with social distancing, the team predicted 14,000 people would die every day next January and February.
The modelling assumes 75 per cent of homes comply with 14-day household quarantine policy, and that general social distancing reduces contacts outside the household and workplace by 90 per cent and workplace contacts by 50 per cent.
‘Good compliance’ scenario assumes 75 per cent of homes comply with 14-day household quarantine policy, and that general social distancing reduces contacts outside the household and workplace by 90 per cent and workplace contacts by 50 per cent. The ‘poor compliance’ scenario assumes school closure increases household contacts by 100 per cent (rather than 50 per cent for central) and social contacts outside the household by 50 per cent rather than 25 per cent. It also assumes general social distancing only reduces contacts outside the household and workplace by 66 per cent (rather than 75 per cent for central)
The health service is bracing for its worst winter on record, when it will have to battle an influx of patients with seasonal flu and Covid-19.
New infection control measures and social distancing will mean it can only function at about 60 per cent capacity, NHS bosses say.
And ten million people could be stuck on waiting lists by the end of the year due to hold-ups caused by the pandemic, making treatment harder to come by.
Whole household isolation – dismissed as a Covid-containing tactic early on in crisis – would have pushed epidemic curve back 1.5months.
Isolating entire households would’ve led to 40% less deaths
Lancaster University urged the Government to reconsider its position on whole household isolation in a paper submitted on March 15.
The idea of telling entire families to isolate for 14 days was thrown out by the Government early in the crisis over concerns there would be low compliance.
The measure would have seen whole households required to not leave home for two weeks, even if they had no symptoms, if one of them tested positive.
Ministers went in a different direction, and encouraged the symptomatic person to isolate in their room alone.
How the UK’s outbreak would have developed if 50 per cent complied with ‘whole household isolation’ (yellow), versus 100 per cent of people (pink). Blue shows how Britain’s epidemic actually played out
But the researchers found that even if just half of families complied with whole household isolation, it would be enough to shrink the size of the epidemic by 40 per cent.
This would’ve also pushed the curve back by roughly one-and-a-half months, the modelling suggested.
Writing in the study, the scientists said they recommend the measure ‘should be re-considered as an intervention to manage the spread of Covid-19 in the UK.’