Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Science & Tech
  2. Coronavirus
21 April 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Lunchtime summary: ONS data undercounts deaths, but still paints a horrific picture

By Samuel Horti

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has given us a clearer picture of the true impact of Covid-19 on the British public: 8,000 more people than normal died in England and Wales in the week to 10 April, the ONS said, and the coronavirus death rate in care homes quadrupled over the same period (see stories below).

But even those horrifying statistics do not tell the full story. The ONS data on deaths likely undercounted the true death toll by at least a “couple of thousand”, according to the ONS’s head of health analysis Nick Stripe. On Good Friday, 10 April, only around a third of registration offices were open. “So actually that number is slightly deflated because if the registration offices had been open, maybe another couple of thousand, if not more, deaths would have been registered,” he told the BBC.

The ONS data also appears to undercount the number of coronavirus-related deaths in care homes. The number of deaths that do not mention coronavirus on the death certicate spiked in the week to 10 April to 4,101, up from 3,574 in the previous week. At least some of those deaths are likely directly related to the virus, or else occurred as a result of the strain the virus is putting on healthcare resources. 

The virus is also devastating businesses: an ONS survey of more than 5,000 companies shows that, up to 5 April, a quarter of businesses had temporarily shut down, and those continuing to trade had furloughed more than a fifth of their staff.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy