Coronavirus: Actual death toll has been 'more than double' the figures supplied by government

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
ONS figures showing death tolls using different data sources. (ONS)

The UK’s actual daily total of coronavirus deaths has on some days been more than double the official figures supplied by the government.

Every day, at about 2pm, the Department of Health has been announcing the latest number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths. The death toll is widely known to be lower than the actual number because of reporting delays.

However, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday have revealed the huge extent to which the government’s figures have been less than the actual death toll.

It comes after date of death figures were released by NHS England, allowing a contrast with the Department of Health’s figures.

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Between 15 March and 27 March, the government’s numbers have been more than 100% less than the actual figures on three occasions.

The biggest discrepancy came on 16 March, when NHS England recorded 145 deaths. On the other hand, the government reported just 67.

On 24 March, NHS England had noted 865 deaths compared to 412 recorded by the government. On 25 March, it was 1,067 to the government’s 515.

The ONS said of the government’s daily death toll figures: “The figures published on Gov.uk are valuable because they are available very quickly and give an indication of what is happening day by day. Their definition is also clear, so the limitations of the data can be understood.

“But they will not necessarily include all deaths involving COVID-19, such as those in England that are not in a hospital or where no test result was available. Although the main Gov.uk figure reported is for the whole UK, breakdowns by area are available.”

It added: “NHS England’s reconciled numbers are valuable as they give a good indication of the lags in the daily deaths in hospital reporting process.

“They allow analysis by date of death to be carried out, which is a better indicator of the growth in the number of deaths.”

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