Coronavirus: UK Covid-19 toll over 41,000, with 10,000 care homes deaths
A man is seen wearing a protective face mask as he walks through Brompton cemetery following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 19, 2020.
London, United Kingdom - UK jobless claims surge almost 70% on coronavirus, with Chancellor Sunak admitting Britain 'likely to face a severe recession'.
Britain's official coronavirus death toll is at least 41,000 with almost 10,000 dead in care homes in England and Wales alone, according to a statistical update released on Tuesday.
Some 41,020 deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate were registered across the UK by May 8, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
With hundreds of deaths still being reported each day, it means the current toll, already the highest in Europe and second only to the United States in the global rankings, is likely to be even higher.
The government's official rolling tally only records deaths after positive tests, and on Tuesday stood at 35,341, up 545 on the day before.
The ONS figures show a sharp fall in coronavirus deaths in the week up to May 8, reinforcing ministers' claims that Britain is past the peak.
Deaths in care homes fell at a slower rate than the population at large, and the total number of deaths in care homes in England and Wales now stands at 9,975.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has come under intense criticism for its handling of the outbreak, notably for the time it took to introduce widespread testing.
A cross-party parliamentary committee on Tuesday criticised the decision to initially concentrate testing in a limited number of laboratories.
"From it followed the decision on March 12 to cease testing in the community and retreat to testing principally within hospitals," it said, warning this left care home residents untested.
At the government's daily media briefing, England's deputy chief scientific adviser, Angela McLean, admitted that limited capacity had driven strategy on testing.
"It was the best thing to do with the tests that we had. We could not have people in hospital with Covid symptoms not knowing whether or not they had Covid," she said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier told parliament he was encouraged that care home deaths were falling.
A total of 62 per cent of care homes in England had no reported cases of Covid-19 at all, he added.
Just over a quarter (27 per cent) of all deaths in England from the virus were in such places, compared with a European average of about half, he told MPs.
"We will not rest from doing whatever is humanly possible to protect our care homes from this appalling virus," he said.
Meanwhile, the number of Britons claiming jobless benefit soared nearly 70 per cent in April to 2.1 million, as the coronavirus devastated the labour market, official data showed Tuesday.
Unemployment claims surged by a record 856,000 from March, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.
The ONS added that the number of unemployed jumped by 50,000 to 1.3 million people in the first quarter, compared with a year earlier.
- 'More hardship -"I certainly won't be able to protect every job, and every business... there will be more hardship to come," finance minister Rishi Sunak said in parliament Tuesday.
Britain imposed a lockdown on March 23 to halt the spread of the virus, and launched a furlough jobs retention scheme under which the government is paying the bulk of wages.
UK furloughing is supporting eight million jobs at a cost of £11.1 billion (Dh40.77 billion) to the taxpayer, the Treasury said Tuesday.
But many workers have been laid off in recent weeks, with companies including British Airways preferring to axe thousands of staff despite the state helping to safeguard jobs.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak on Tuesday said the lockdown was "having a very significant impact on our economy.
"We are likely to face a severe recession, the likes of which we haven't seen and of course that will have an impact on unemployment."
He added: "The longer the recession, it is likely the degree of that scarring will be greater."
Britain's lockdown is just starting to be eased, while the government has said that under the furlough scheme it will continue to pay up to 80 per cent of wages until October.
"It is not obvious that there will be an immediate bounceback" in the economy, Sunak said.
"It takes time for people to get back to the habits they had, there are still restrictions in place."
ONS statistician Jonathan Athow said Tuesday's data also showed the number of employees on company payrolls had dropped "noticeably, and vacancies were sharply down too, with hospitality" falling by the sharpest amount.
The British unemployment rate meanwhile stood at 3.9 per cent in the first quarter, compared with 3.8 per cent a year earlier.
Analysts stressed that the labour market would deteriorate even more sharply in the coming months.
Andrew Wishart at research group Capital Economics said the UK unemployment rate would hit 6.0 percent in the coming months" and could reach as high as 9.0 per cent.