The UK has recorded more deaths from the coronavirus than any other European country with the latest official government figure reaching 29,427.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the number is a “massive tragedy” that the country “has never seen before…on this scale, in this way”.
Only the United States has recorded a higher number but Raab told today’s coronavirus press briefing that he would not be drawn on global comparisons.
“I don’t think we will get a real verdict on how well countries have done until the pandemic is over, and particularly until we get comprehensive international data on all cause mortality,” the foreign secretary said.
“I don’t think you can make the international comparisons … at this stage, at least I don’t think you can make them reliably”.
Death-rate is “faster” in Britain
Italy’s grim toll stands at 29,315, and while death rates in countries are being compared, experts said it “could be months before full global comparisons can be made.”
Robert Cuffe, BBC head of statistics said Britain has reached the number of deaths “faster” in its epidemic compared to Italy, which, up to now, had suffered the highest number of deaths.
“This is a sobering moment”, writes BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle. “But we should be careful how we interpret the figures.”
Other factors, such as population size, age and geographic density have to be considered, says Triggle, along with access to care and the way deaths are recorded.
“The fairest way to judge the impact in terms of fatalities is to look at excess mortality – the numbers dying above what would normally happen”, he writes. “You need to do this over time. It will be months, perhaps even years, before we can really say who has the highest death.”
Opening schools risks second spike and R-rate
A further 693 deaths have been recorded in last 24 hours and Raab told the No10 briefing that 1,383,842 tests for the virus have been carried out, including 84,806 tests yesterday. It means the government’s 100,000 tests-per-day target has been missed for the third consecutive day.
The tests form one of the government’s five key tests that must be met before the lockdown is lifted and Raab told today’s briefing the UK faced a “very real risk” of a second coronavirus spike if schools were allowed to reopen too early.
“The crucial bit for us is the five tests and the risk of a second spike in relation to any new changes that we would make and that must of course include schools,” Raab said.
“At least to date the evidence has been that we wouldn’t be able to open up all schools without a very real risk that the R rate – the transmission rate – would rise at such a level that we would risk a second spike.”
ONS and the Times report higher death toll
While the official UK death toll is 29,427, the Telegraph reports the latest Office of National Statistics recording it as even higher, at 32,375.
Meanwhile a report in the Times claims the UK’s coronavirus death toll is more than 55,000, based on a model using excess death figures.