UK records highest daily death toll from coronavirus at 854

Pamela Duncan, Niamh McIntyre and Amy Walker
Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex/Shutterstock

The UK has experienced its highest daily number of recorded coronavirus deaths – 854 – a figure beginning to approach the toll on the deadliest days so far in Italy and Spain.

NHS England reported on Tuesday that a further 758 people who had tested positive for the virus had died in its hospitals, while the total was announced as 74 for Scotland, 19 in Wales and three in Northern Ireland.

The data is likely to draw concerns over the development of the outbreak in the UK in comparison with Europe’s hardest-hit countries in the pandemic.

Italy, which has recorded the most coronavirus-related deaths globally, recorded 971 deaths in its highest count on 28 March, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

In Spain, which has the second highest rate across the world, 950 deaths were recorded on its deadliest day on 3 April.

Four English trusts have recorded in excess of 150 deaths each: University Hospitals Birmingham (263); London North West University healthcare (183); King’s College hospital (163) and the Royal Free London (151).

The youngest victim reported by NHS England was 23 – one of 29 patients to die with no known underlying health conditions. The vast majority of patients (96%) had pre-existing conditions.

The Department of Health and Social Care, which collates the data in a different way from regional agencies, later released a daily figure for deaths in UK hospital settings of 786.

The UK death toll does not include deaths recorded in the community and it could be weeks before the true number becomes known.

New data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicates that deaths in the community are also on the rise.

There were 539 registered deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned in the week to 27 March, or 4.8% of all deaths registered in England and Wales. This compares to 103 fatalities, or 1% of all deaths, the previous week.There were five registered deaths in the week to 13 March. This brings the total number of coronavirus deaths registered by 27 March to 647.

However, delays in the registration of deaths, collected by the ONS, mean it may be weeks before there is a clear tally of how many people have died in the community. These deaths will also include those suspected to have had Covid-19 in hospital at the time of death but were not tested and included in NHS England figures.

Detailed demographic breakdowns for the 647 deaths show that, in keeping with initial studies carried out internationally, men are more likely than women to die with the virus. Men make up 61% of the total Covid-19 related deaths to date.

Of the 647 deaths registered in England and Wales by 27 March, 61% were men

The figures also indicate the disease is most dangerous for older people. More than two thirds (69%) of deaths have occurred among those aged 75 and over.

The figures are not a like-for-like comparison with the data released by the ONS on 31 March.

Discrepancies in the reporting of deaths can be partly explained by some key differences between ONS and NHS methodologies. The ONS counts every mention of Covid-19 on death certificates, whether it was the underlying cause or not. As it takes a number of days to register a death, there may be delays in reporting this figure.

The NHS figures are reported daily by every trust in England and only includes deaths which occurred in a hospital and were tested. These are more up-to-date than the ONS figures, but can still include delays of up to a month. A Guardian analysis published last week found that the NHS’s revised figures for a single day are often significantly higher than originally reported.

Of the 647 coronavirus deaths registered by 27 March, more than two-thirds were among people aged 75 and over

Sarah Caul, head of mortality at the ONS, said in a blog post: “Numbers produced by ONS are much slower to prepare, because they have to be certified by a doctor, registered and processed. But once ready, they are the most accurate and complete information.

“Using the complete death certificate allows us to analyse a lot of information, such as what other health conditions contributed to the death. We will start publishing more detailed breakdowns of the figures as soon as possible.”

Additional reporting by Caelainn Barr