The UK may end up with the worst death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, a minister has said.
Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News it was unclear for now but it may well be the case that the UK will have the highest death toll in Europe.
He said: We’ve been on similar trajectories to France and Italy. It may well be that we are, who knows, we don’t know that at the moment. For now we just need to focus on managing this pandemic.
The UK has so far recorded 161,145 positive cases of Covid-19, with 21,678 hospital deaths as of Tuesday. But the number is expected to be far higher when deaths at care homes are included. where more than 5,000 deaths have been linked to the disease.
A spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation said it would not be fair at this stage… to make a judgement on whether the UK would come out of the crisis with the worst death toll in Europe, but it was clear the outbreak here was horrendous.
Dr Margaret Harris, spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation (WHO), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: We won’t really know who had the highest rates, what really went on, until after this is over and we can analyse it properly.
Clearly you are having a horrendous outbreak and making a tremendous effort to care for everybody but at this stage it wouldn’t be fair to make a judgment one way or another.
The government will begin publishing the number of deaths in care homes alongside hospital deaths from Wednesday, in an effort to bring as much transparency as possible, said health secretary Matt Hancock. It has faced widespread criticism for not including care home and community deaths in its daily statistics, unlike some other countries.
During Tuesday’s daily briefing, Mr Hancock said testing will be expanded to all care home residents and staff, regardless of whether they have Covid-19 symptoms, and all those aged 65 and over with symptoms and their households.
The UK’s national testing co-ordinator Professor John Newton said he expects a substantial number of people living in care homes will have died, ahead of the release of the figures today.