Britain has suffered the highest proportion of excess deaths across Europe during the coronavirus crisis, figures suggest.
Around 55,000 more Britons than normal have died in 2020, up nearly 70 per cent compared to the five-year average by May 8.
A quarter of these deaths were not officially attributed to COVID-19 but experts say excess fatalities paint a much clearer picture of the outbreak.
This is because they capture victims who may have not been diagnosed, as well as deaths that that resulted from a lack of access to healthcare and suicides.
Belgium has been the second worst-hit European country, with 9,000 excess deaths by May 3 – 57 per cent higher than average, according to the Financial Times.
Spain’s deaths are up 44 per cent compared to the five year average, after suffering 30,000 excess fatalities.
There has been only one study comparing excess death rates in Italy so far, which suggests its excess deaths are 39 per cent higher than normal.
Italy’s national health body said since February 20 – when it recorded its first COVID-19 case – there were 91,000 deaths, 25,000 more than average.
Only 13,700 of these were officially attributed to coronavirus, meaning more than 11,000 may have gone uncounted.
But it could also be the case that these people missed out on treatment for other conditions.
France recorded a sharp rise in deaths in March but after lockdown in April the rate actually fell below its usual level.
It means the nation – just 100 miles (160km) south of London – has experienced 22 per cent more deaths than normal.
The Office for National Statistics revealed Britain’s excess death toll in a report on Tuesday, suggesting at least 55,000 more deaths had occurred than expected.
Hospital deaths have now tapered off so much that the numbers of people dying in them is lower than average for this time of year – but the crisis is continuing in care homes.
The government said this week there are now fewer than 10,000 people in hospital in England because of the virus.