Coronavirus: 12,500 UK care home deaths linked to Covid-19
Resident Sally Baker sings with carers Kayleigh Martin (L) and Denise Morris (R) at Fremantle Trust care home, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Princes Risborough, Britain, May 5, 2020.
London, United Kingdom - Reproduction rate of disease rises to 0.7-1.0 in Britain, a slight increase on last week.
More than 12,500 deaths of care-home residents in Britain were linked to the coronavirus, according to figures released Friday, heaping further pressure on the government over its handling of the pandemic.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 12,526 care home residents in England and Wales had died from the virus in March and April, with nearly three-quarters occurring within homes and the rest in hospitals.
However, the ONS suggested the actual death toll of care-home residents could be far higher, noting it had recorded 23,136 more fatalities in the first four months of the year than in the same period in 2019.
Asked if they had done enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in care homes, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said all residents would be soon be tested for Covid-19.
"We will test all residents and employees of our retirement homes in England between now and early June," said Health Minister Matt Hancock at the British government's daily press briefing.
Britain has the second-highest Covid-19 death toll in the world, according to official data, although the government has argued that global comparisons are fraught given different countries' reporting methods.
The ONS and regional UK health bodies reported earlier this week they had registered 36,473 deaths from or mentioning the virus up until May 1 -- a tally second only to the United States.
The figures also indicated that Britain's excess mortality, which experts have said is the truest indicator of the virus' impact, was close to 50,000.
Department of Health figures say there have been 33,614 deaths of people who had tested positive for the virus.
Ministers and scientific advisers say a true picture of the extent of the outbreak will not emerge for months.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has been criticised for its response to the outbreak, particularly in relation to care homes, with accusations they have been abandoned during the pandemic.
Opposition parties and whistleblowers in the care sector have said hospitals allowed patients to be discharged from hospital into homes without adequate testing to determine if they had the virus.
There has been persistent criticism carers were not given adequate personal protective equipment and that the sector was ill-prepared for the pandemic.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer drew attention to the issue on Wednesday, noting guidance from health officials which remained in place until mid-March said it was "very unlikely" care homes would be impacted by the virus.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Friday that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is examining if human rights laws were breached by hospitals discharging older patients into care homes.
The government has insisted it has adequately supported the sector throughout the crisis, though Johnson admitted Tuesday there was "more to do".
Meanwhile, the reproduction rate of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom is now somewhere between 0.7 and 1.0, government scientific advisers said on Friday, a slight rise on figures given last week.
Boris Johnson said last week the rate was 0.5 to 0.9. The government has said it will keep a close eye on the so-called 'R' rate as it looks at how quickly to ease lockdown measures first introduced in March.
As the number is below one, the virus is not spreading exponentially, but the rise in the number means that infections are falling more slowly now.
Asked at the government's daily news conference about the rise, health minister Matt Hancock said the key thing for the easing of lockdown was that the R is still not above 1.
The government began gradually lifing some lockdown measures in England on Wednesday, allowing people to exercise more than once a day and encouraging people who cannot work from home to return to their jobs.
As the R rate, a consensus view from scientists advising the government, is estimated from data on cases, hospitalisations and deaths, there is a delay of around 2-3 weeks, so the latest range does not cover the period of lockdown being eased.
Government scientific advisers said the coronavirus outbreak was now concentrated in hospitals and care homes and the reproduction rate was subject to substantial regional variation.
"This is very much a national average but it is quite likely in the community, across the country ... that R value will be lower," England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said.
Just 49 people were admitted to hospital for Covid-19 in London on Thursday for example, the scientists said.
Figures from the government published earlier on Friday showed the number of people who have died in the United Kingdom after testing positive was 33,998 by 8pm UAE time on Thursday.
A total of 236,711 people had tested positive for the virus as of 12pm UAE time on Friday, up by 3,560 on the previous day.