The UK passed a total of 100,000 deaths due to Covid-19 on 7 January, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics, which has also released data showing that deaths in care homes in England and Wales have risen to their highest level since last May.
The date is earlier than was previously estimated, due to figures being revised upwards since last week. The total death toll from the UK’s statistical agencies, which includes deaths that occurred up to 15 January, is now 107,907.
Figures from the ONS also show that 1,719 care home residents have died from the virus in the week to 15 January – more than doubling the death toll since Christmas.
The Guardian had previously reported that the milestone of 100,000 deaths had been passed on 13 January, by combining figures from the statistical agencies and the government’s daily figures.
Responding to the data, Richard Murray, the chief executive of the King’s Fund, said: “This time last year, it would be almost impossible to believe that a wealthy island nation with a universal healthcare system would go on to have one of the highest death tolls from the emerging coronavirus pandemic.
“Yet the UK has now passed the grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths, with many more likely to follow.”
The majority of the deaths were in England, which reported 92,257 deaths to 15 January, followed by Scotland (7,448), Wales (6,074) and Northern Ireland (2,128).
Death figures from the nations’ statistical agencies are considered the most accurate way of counting Covid deaths, and include mentions of Covid-19 on death certificates. However, there are often delays in death registration, so the government figures are useful for a more up-to-date tally.
By the government’s measure, which counts deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test, there have been 98,531 deaths in the UK, a figure which is likely to hit 100,000 this week.
There are signs that case rates in England have begun to level off, according to the latest infection survey from the ONS, which found that positivity had decreased slightly. However, deaths will continue to increase after cases have subsided.
Dr David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre at Cambridge University, said: “There will be a lot of attention given to deaths with Covid reaching 100,000, but this is based on the figures released each day, which only include people who had a positive test and then died within 28 days.
“The more accurate ONS data show that over 100,000 people in the UK had already died with Covid on their death certificate by 7 January, nearly three weeks ago. This rose to 108,000 by 15 January, and the total now will be nearly 120,000.
“Around 90% 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.”
In care homes, the sharpest rises in deaths were seen in the north-east, which reported a 58% rise in deaths, data from the Office for National Statistics revealed.
The number of deaths involving Covid in England’s care homes reported to the Care Quality Commission regulator jumped from 1,292 to 1,705 in the week ending 22 January, as rising outbreaks earlier in the month caused by the more transmissible variant led to an increase in fatalities.
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