At over 30,000 Covid-19 deaths, UK now worst-hit in Europe
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which collates data based on Covid-19 mentioned as a cause in death certificates, said up to May 2, there were 28,272 deaths in England and 1,376 in Wales; amounting to 29,648. Italy’s death toll is reported to be 29,029.Updated: May 05, 2020, 19:05 IST
New figures released on Tuesday show that the United Kingdom registered the highest death toll from coronavirus in Europe – 29,648 as of May 2 – overtaking Italy and posing more questions on the Boris Johnson government’s approach in the early days of the pandemic.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which collates data based on Covid-19 mentioned as a cause in death certificates, said up to May 2, there were 28,272 deaths in England and 1,376 in Wales; amounting to 29,648. Italy’s death toll is reported to be 29,029.
The realistic UK-wide figure is over 30,000, since the ONS figure does not include deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the new figures made Johnson’s recent claim of having ‘past the peak’ meaningless.
However, Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, warned against international comparisons. She told MPs: “It is extremely difficult to compare between countries at the moment. We need to not just look at the numbers clearly, but at the rates”.
“The obvious one is age and standardised death rates per million population. Those are not the numbers that are routinely reported, so it is really difficult to do direct comparisons.”
The Johnson government faced continuing criticism on lack of testing in initial stages. Harries admitted there was ‘lack of capacity’ to test, adding: “If we had unlimited capacity we would have done (it) differently”.
The government on Tuesday published a cache of documents from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), whose recommendations have been driving lockdown and other measures. The group comprises mainly experts from various disciplines.
The Johnson government was widely criticised in the initial stages for adopting a ‘herd immunity’ approach, but quickly abandoned it when expert modelling suggested it could lead to over 5 lakh deaths. It has since denied ‘herd immunity’ was ever government policy.
A new app to track and trace was introduced in the Isle of Wight on Tuesday, before its UK-wide rollout. Johnson is to announce steps to ease the lockdown on Sunday, but House of Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle said such major announcements should be made in parliament first.