The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 death toll has reached nearly 43,000, underlining the country’s status as the worst-hit in Europe and raising more questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the crisis.
New figures for England and Wales brought the death toll to at least 42,990, a Reuters tally showed, including earlier data from Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well recent hospital deaths in England.
Tuesday’s numbers from the Office for National Statistics painted a grim picture in care homes, more than a third of which have been stricken by the novel coronavirus.
Deaths in care homes across the United Kingdom topped 10,000 as of May 8, although the increase has slowed over the last couple of weeks. The BBC however expressed doubts on these figures, saying that there are significant numbers of unexplained fatalities. Last week, the average death toll in the country was three times the normal rate for the current time of the year.
Government defended its handling of the coronavirus outbreak in care homes on Tuesday, saying the government had put a “protective ring” around them and that 62% of homes had reported no COVID-19 cases.
“From the start, we have worked hard to protect those in social care,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament. “We will keep working to strengthen the protective ring that we have cast around all of our care homes.”
Hancock said the number of deaths in care homes had fallen in the past week of reported data. He said 27% of COVID-19 deaths in England had taken place in care homes compared to a European average of around half.
The opposition Labour Party’s spokeswoman for social care, Liz Kendall, said the government had been too slow to tackle the problems in care homes.
Reuters / BBC