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17 April 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Government’s official death toll stats lagging behind true figures, Hancock says


By Samuel Horti

Official government statistics for coronavirus-related deaths among NHS workers and in care homes do not reflect the true death toll, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The latest government figures show that 27 NHS staff have died from the coronavirus. Hancock said this figure is updated three times a week, but that the true number will be higher. He would like to be able to publish a daily figure for the death toll among NHS staff, he told a virtual meeting of the Health and Social Care Committee this morning. 

Asked about the latest Official for National Statistics data on deaths in care homes, which shows 217 coronavirus-related deaths, representing less than 2 per cent of total deaths, Hancock said “that I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that both the number and proportion are higher”. In Scotland, a quarter of reported deaths have occured in care homes.

He has asked officials to find a better way of recording and reporting care home deaths, and new policies were implemented yesterday, he said. The government’s goal was to be “as transparent as possible”.

Hancock also revealed the government considered a London-only lockdown in the early stages of the virus but rejected the idea, partly because locking down the city would simply cause people to leave.

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