CORONAVIRUS deaths in the UK might be 54 per cent higher than reported – meaning the grim death toll could be at least 32,000.
The Office for National Statistics today found there were 22,300 deaths involving Covid-19 in and outside of hospital up to April 17 but registered to April 25.
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This is compared to 14,451 reported by the Department of Health for England and Wales at the same time.
The number means the UK death toll could be around 54 per cent higher than the current total of 21,092 – bringing the total number of deaths from the disease to at least 32,000.
The figures explore deaths that happened outside hospital – including care homes and private houses – as well as backdated hospital deaths.
It also includes hidden deaths where Covid-19 is mentioned as a suspected cause of death but the victim has not necessarily tested positive for the disease.
And they do not include Northern Ireland and Scotland so the true number for the UK will be higher.
The statistics also show Covid-19 care home deaths had trebled in the week leading up to April 17 as the killer bug tears through the sector.
In the week up to April 17, 3,096 people died in care homes from the virus – treble the week before when 1,043 deaths were registered.
The latest ONS showed there were 4,316 deaths outside hospital from the disease up to April 17, the figures found.
Of these, 3,096 took place in care homes, 883 in private homes, 190 in hospices, 61 in the community and 86 elsewhere.
But the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported 4,343 deaths of residents in homes between April 10 and 24 – the first time such figures have been published by the body.
The shocking new figures have also revealed more people died in the UK in the week to April 17 than in any other week since 1993 when the records began.
A total of 22,351 people died from all causes – twice the normal five-year average of of 11,854.
Of these, coronavirus was mentioned in 39.2 per cent of deaths in that week, a rise of six per cent from the week before.
This means almost four in ten deaths up to April 17 were related to the disease.
The ONS figures today also show coronavirus was a factor in over half of all deaths registered in London up to April 17.
The North West and North East also suffered a high number of coronavirus deaths – 42.3 per cent and 41.1 per cent respectively.
CARE HOME TRAGEDY
Pressure has been mounting on the government to release the number of care home deaths and they have now pledged to provide more reliable data on the number of victims.
Some experts believe the true number of coronavirus deaths in care homes could be as high as 7,500.
Responding to the latest figures, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “It is truly shocking to see how many of the most elderly and vulnerable in our communities have died from this dreadful disease.
“Every death from this virus is a tragedy. This is being exacerbated by the fact some social care staff and other frontline workers still lack the necessary PPE to protect themselves and the people they care for from contracting coronavirus.
'NOT AT PEAK YET'
“Social care is now the frontline in the fight against coronavirus and we need to do all we can to shield people in care homes and those receiving care in their own homes.
“We are also yet to see the peak of the stress on the social care system, due to the delay between hospital admissions and discharge, which will require the need to start shifting capacity across from hospitals and into the community to meet a surge in demand.”
The Department of Health yesterday confirmed the UK death toll was now at 21,092 after 360 more people lost their lives to the killer disease.
This is the lowest daily increase in deaths in four weeks after 180 people lost their lives on March 30.
But there is usually a lag in reporting the figures over the weekend so the number is likely to rise this week.
It comes as Boris Johnson is expected to set out the next stage of lockdown this week – including the chance for Brits to potentially meet pals in limited "bubbles".
Officials are said to be looking at easing some of the restrictions and allowing small groups of people to socialise.
The official review of the lockdown isn't due until May 7 but Boris is expected to detail how "phase two" of the lockdown could work by the end of this week.
The first steps towards easing the restrictions are expected to include helping workplaces enforce social distancing and ensure staff can wash their hands regularly.
Shops selling 'non-essential items' could also reopen, if they can keep customers more than two metres apart.
Football matches may also be allowed to continue behind closed doors after talks between the Premier League and the government.
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But No10 has warned some restrictions might get tougher to avoid a deadly second wave of the pandemic.
Boris yesterday urged people to "contain your impatience" as he returned to work after his own battle with the disease.
Speaking outside No10, the PM said "we simply cannot spell out now how fast, slow or when changes to restrictions will be made" to the lockdown.
He added: "It is still true that this is the biggest single challenge this country has faced since the war and I in no way minimise the continuing problems we face.
"And yet it is also true that we are making progress with fewer hospital admissions, fewer Covid patients in ICU and real signs now that we are passing through the peak.
"And thanks to your forbearance, your good sense your altruism, your spirit of community, thanks to our collective national resolve, we are on the brink of achieving that first clear mission to prevent our National Health Service from being overwhelmed in a way that tragically we have seen elsewhere.
"And that is how and why we are now beginning to turn the tide."
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