The UK now has the highest known death tally from Covid-19 in Europe, writes Michael Goodier.
New figures show a total of 29,710 deaths in England and Wales linked to the virus as of 24 April.
That’s looking at deaths mentioning Covid-19 on the death certificate, a figure that includes people who weren’t necessarily tested but were showing symptoms.
When figures from Scotland (2,272 deaths as of 26 April) and Northern Ireland (393 up to 24 April) are included, that brings the UK total to 32,375 – higher than every other country in the world apart from the USA, and the highest death toll in Europe.
In one sense, headlines of the worst death toll in Europe are true – as based on what we know, no other country has confirmed as many deaths.
However, in another sense, it is comparing apples with oranges.
Other countries, like Italy, have not published as up-to-date statistics using the same death certificate methodology the UK has, meaning its deaths total is likely to rise once these are published in the future.
Currently, we can only compare these UK figures to the numbers released by other countries every day of people dying after being confirmed to have the disease – figures which miss out a lot of deaths.
For example, the daily 24 April figure for the UK put the total at 22,792 (and even as of 4 May, showed only 28,734 deaths) – far lower than the real number.
Statistician Nick Stripe, of the ONS, wrote on Twitter: “UK death registrations data is the fastest, most frequent and most in depth than any other stats agency.
“ISTAT [the Italian stats agency] yesterday brought out data for deaths in March. It showed 25,000 excess deaths and almost double those attributed to Covid previously.
“We’ve just reported up to April 24.”
In short, what we know is the death toll in the UK is continuing to rise, and currently has reported more people dead from the disease than anywhere else in Europe.
What we don’t yet know is exactly how the UK will end up comparing to other countries when they release similar data.