Coronavirus: England death count review reduces UK toll by 5,000

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Suhail Patel

A review of how deaths from coronavirus are counted in England has reduced the UK death toll by more than 5,000, to 41,329, the government has announced.

The recalculation is based on a new definition of who has died from Covid.

Previously, people in England who died at any point following a positive test, regardless of cause, were counted in the figures.

But there will now be a cut-off of 28 days, providing a more accurate picture of the epidemic.

This brings England’s measure in line with the other UK nations.

The new methodology for counting deaths means the total number of people who have died from Covid-19 comes down from 46,706 to 41,239 – a reduction of 12%.

And figures for deaths in England for the most recent week of data – 18 to 24 July – will drop by 75%, from 442 to 111.

Prof John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said: “The way we count deaths in people with Covid-19 in England was originally chosen to avoid underestimating deaths caused by the virus in the early stages of the pandemic.”

But he said the new methods of calculating deaths from the virus would give “crucial information about both recent trends and overall mortality burden due to Covid-19”.

The health secretary in England, Matt Hancock, called for a review into the way deaths from coronavirus were calculated in July.

It followed concerns raised by Oxford scientists that this was being carried out differently across the four nations of the UK.

They discovered that anyone who had ever tested positive for Covid-19 – even if they had since recovered – would count as a death from coronavirus.

Now the UK’s four chief medical officers have decided to use a single, consistent measure and publish the number of deaths that occurred within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test confirmed in a lab, every day.