The UK has reached the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe after more than 30,000 deaths were recorded from Covid-19.
The UK has passed Italy as the country with the most Covid-19 deaths in Europe, with the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that 29,710 deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales had been registered up to May 2.
Together with the latest equivalent numbers for Scotland (2,272 deaths registered up to April 26) and Northern Ireland (393 deaths registered up to April 29), it means a total of 32,375 deaths involving Covid-19 have now been registered across the UK.
Based on those statistics it puts the UK at the highest recorded in Europe and second-highest in the world to the US.
It exceeds the death toll of Italy – until now Europe’s worst-hit country – which previously recorded a total of 29,079 deaths as of 6pm on May 4.
The full picture in both countries will not be known for some time, however.
With governments and health authorities across Europe taking different approaches to recording deaths – and the potential of some Covid-19 deaths not being recorded at all – it is impossible to know exact comparable death tolls at this stage.
And even in the UK, there are different ways of measuring deaths involving Covid-19.
The total number of Covid-19 deaths announced each day by the UK government is not based on death registrations.
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Instead it is the number of deaths that have been reported so far in all settings where there has been a positive Covid-19 test.
Commenting on the ONS data, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said ‘any talk of being ‘past the peak’ of this virus is meaningless given these figures.’
She added: ‘We need urgent action to get PPE to staff the frontline and tests for care workers’.
Nick Stripe, head of health analysis at the ONS, said that the overall number of deaths was dropping.
But he cautioned that the number of excess deaths in the week ending April 24 is still the second highest since records began in 1993.
‘We would kind of expect to see that impact of the lockdown now, so it’s reassuring to see that the number of deaths have slightly dropped from that very high peak.’
Last week Boris Johnson was ridiculed for claiming that Britain’s response to coronavirus had been a ‘success’, saying ‘there will be many people looking now at our apparent success’ in dealing with the outbreak.
Health officials have previously urged against ‘Eurovision’ comparisons between the UK and Europe over the numbers of coronavirus death due to differences in population age, density, and recording measures.
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘The one thing we can be certain of is that all these numbers are substantial underestimates of the true number who have died from Covid, and an even bigger underestimate of the number who have died because of the epidemic and the measures taken against it.
‘I think we can safely say that none of these countries are doing well, but this is not Eurovision and it is pointless to try and rank them.
‘For example, apparently around half of Belgium’s deaths are people in care homes who have not been tested, and these would not feature at all in the daily UK figures.
‘I believe the only sensible comparison is by looking at excess all-cause mortality, adjusted for the age distribution of the country.
‘And even then it will be very difficult to ascribe the reasons for any differences.’