UK virus toll passes 40,000, with 10,000 care home deaths
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UK virus toll passes 40,000, with 10,000 care home deaths

Britain is worst-hit country in Europe, but officials point to sharp fall in coronavirus fatalities to argue epidemic is past the peak

File: An ambulance crew moves an elderly patient from hospital to a care home on May 5, 2020 near Portsmouth, southwest England. (Leon Neal/Pool/AFP)
File: An ambulance crew moves an elderly patient from hospital to a care home on May 5, 2020 near Portsmouth, southwest England. (Leon Neal/Pool/AFP)

LONDON — Britain’s official coronavirus death toll is now over 40,000 with almost 10,000 dead in care homes in England and Wales alone, according to a statistical update released on Tuesday.

Some 40,902 deaths from coronavirus were registered by May 8, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), meaning the true toll will be even higher when deaths registered over the last 10 days are taken into account.

The ONS figures include deaths where COVID-19 is suspected or mentioned on the death certificate.

The government’s official rolling tally, which was 34,796 as of Monday, only records deaths after positive tests.

Either way, Britain is the worst-hit country in Europe, and the government has been criticized heavily for its response to the outbreak.

A deserted Westminster Bridge is pictured looking north around Monday lunch time, in central London, March 23, 2020, amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown. (Ben Stansall/AFP)

The ONS figures show a sharp fall in coronavirus deaths in the week up to May 8, reinforcing ministers’ claims that the country is past the peak.

Numbers in England and Wales fell from 6,035 to 3,930. Care home deaths accounted for 42.4 percent of the total — up from 40.4 % the week before.

Deaths in care homes fell at a slower rate than the population at large, and the total number of deaths in care homes in England and Wales now stands at 9,975.

A cross-party parliamentary committee looking into the government’s handling of the crisis on Tuesday said testing had been “inadequate” in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“The decision to pursue an approach of initially concentrating testing in a limited number of laboratories and to expand them gradually… is one of the most consequential made during this crisis,” they said.

A woman wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 stands with a buggy as they enjoy the afternoon sunshine in Hyde Park, London, on May 19, 2020, following the relaxing of lockdown restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)

“From it followed the decision on March 12 to cease testing in the community and retreat to testing principally within hospitals.”

The decision meant residents in care homes could not get tests when the virus was at its most potent stage, they added.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament he was encouraged that care home deaths were falling.

A total of 62 % of care homes in England had no reported cases of COVID-19 at all, he added.

Just over a quarter (27%) of all deaths in England from the virus were in such places, compared with a European average of about half, he told MPs.

“We will not rest from doing whatever is humanly possible to protect our care homes from this appalling virus,” he said.

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