More than 16,000 people have died from Covid-19 in UK care homes, according to the latest official figures – almost a third of all fatalities.
The grim milestone was reached with the deaths of 564 residents in England and Wales in the week to 5 June, according to the Office for National Statistics’ analysis of death certificates.
The rate of deaths in care homes is falling as infections diminish following the lockdown, and the number of deaths above the five-year average in care homes fell to its lowest level since early April.
But care homes remain hard hit and operators are calling for financial help and fresh guarantees from ministers over testing and supplies of personal protective equipment to avert a similar impact in a widely expected second peak of infection.
In Scotland, a third of care homes still have outbreaks and staff and residents have had to cope with almost half of all deaths caused by Covid-19 in that country.
The deaths of a further 230 people were reported by care homes to regulators last week in England and Wales, bringing the known toll in care settings to 16,443.
HC-One, the largest private provider of care homes, said on Monday999 of its residents had died with the virus, including 26 at Melbury Court, the Durham care home with the highest known death toll in the UK.
The addition of Tuesday’s ONS data to those of the statistical agencies in Scotland and Northern Ireland means there have been 52,161 deaths across the whole of the UK in all settings by 5 June, confirming Britain’s status as the hardest hit European country with a death toll that appears to be surpassed so far only by the US and Brazil.
In March, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said keeping the death toll within 20,000 would be a “good result”.
In continued evidence that Covid-19’s impact on normal mortality is diminishing in England and Wales, there was only a small increase in the number of “excess deaths” above the average for previous non-Covid years.
The death toll of 10,709 in the week was only 732 higher than the five-year average. Overall, excess deaths since the week ending 27 March across the UK increased in that week by just 1.3% to 64,440.
There are wide differences between regions, which are likely to increase pressure for targeted responses to the pandemic to prevent flare-ups in particular areas. Wales, north-west England and the West Midlands recorded death rates more than 10% above the five-year average in the week to 5 June.
By contrast, the east and south-west regions of England were less than 5% above the average, and in London the death toll was 2.8% lower than the average.
Councils said the figures showed “social care remains the frontline in the fight against coronavirus”.
“While we are now past the peak of the virus in care homes, it is still seriously concerning that nearly a third of all deaths from Covid-19 continues to happen in these settings,” said Ian Hudspeth, the chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board.
“Excess deaths in care homes and private homes continue to be higher than the five-year average, compared to hospitals which have seen a decline, leaving our older people and most vulnerable at risk.”
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