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UK minister downplays data on extent of COVID deaths away from hospitals

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a daily digital news conference on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain April 21, 2020. Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s health minister sought to downplay news on Tuesday that the true extent of the country’s COVID-19 death toll was more than 40% higher than the government’s daily figures indicated as of April 10.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which records all deaths including those in care homes and hospitals, reported 13,121 deaths from the new coronavirus by April 10 in England and Wales. The government’s daily toll, which includes only hospital deaths, was 9,288 by that date.

“I’ve seen this 40 percent figure, I asked the team about it before coming here and that is not an accurate representation of those figures,” Hancock said during the government’s daily coronavirus news conference at Downing Street.

“(There are) important differences between how we measure deaths in hospitals -- which we can get that data daily, and so it’s incredibly important for tracking as soon as possible what’s happening in terms of the impact of this disease -- with the ONS data, which is measured in a different way.”

Reporting by Alistair Smout, Costas Pitas and Paul Sandle, writing by Estelle Shirbon, Editing by Kylie MacLellan

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