May 12, 2020 / 5:01 PM / 24 days ago

Exclusive: UK coronavirus outbreak kills at least 20,000 in care homes - Reuters calculation

LONDON (Reuters) - At least 20,000 people have died in care homes in England and Wales as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Reuters calculations based on official data.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a daily news conference to update on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain May 11, 2020. Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Handout via REUTERS

In the eight weeks to May 1, there were 37,627 people who died in care homes of all causes in England and Wales, according to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Based on a comparison of the average of weekly deaths in care homes in the same period over five years, Reuters calculated that excess deaths have totalled over 19,900 in England and Wales.

These figures update a Reuters calculation one week ago, published in a Special Report, that estimated the excess deaths to be at least 12,700.

The new total excludes hundreds of further deaths in Scotland and deaths that occurred since May 1. Other care home residents were transferred to hospital and died there. These are also not included in this figure.

Comparisons of excess deaths over average mortality is considered by statisticians the most accurate way to judge the consequence of the pandemic, including deaths directly caused by the pandemic or other deaths indirectly caused, for example by reduction in provision for other health problems.

The United Kingdom’s total COVID-19 death toll now exceeds 40,000, by far the worst yet reported in Europe, new data showed on Tuesday, raising more questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics for England and Wales brought the United Kingdom’s official death toll to 38,289 as of May 3, according to a Reuters tally of death registrations that also includes Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Since then, at least 2,251 people have died from COVID-19 in English hospitals, according to the latest daily data, bringing the true death toll as of Tuesday to just over 40,000.

While different ways of counting make comparisons with other countries difficult, the figure confirmed Britain was among those hit worst by a pandemic that has killed more than 285,000 people worldwide.

The data came a day after Johnson set out a gradual plan to get Britain back to work, including advice on wearing homemade face coverings - though his attempt to lift the coronavirus lockdown prompted confusion.

The leaders of the devolved nations - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - said that advice given by Johnson only applied to England. They told people to stay at home still.

Such a high UK death toll increases the pressure on Johnson. Opposition parties say he was too slow to impose a lockdown, too slow to introduce mass testing and too slow to get enough protective equipment to hospitals.

Reporting by Stephen Grey and Ryan McNeill; Editing by Andy Bruce, Guy Faulconbridge and Lisa Shumaker

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