Weekly registered deaths of care home residents involving coronavirus have passed 2,000 and are at their highest level since the end of April, new figures show.
There were 2,364 deaths of care home residents involving Covid-19 in the week ending January 22 in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
This includes residents who died in care homes, hospitals and other settings.
This is up 37.5% from the previous week, and is the highest weekly number since the week ending May 1.
The latest weekly figure is also more than three times the 745 care home resident deaths registered in the week ending December 31.
A total of 33,215 care home residents in England and Wales have now had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate, the ONS said.
Separate Care Quality Commission data shows it was notified of 2,357 deaths of care home residents involving Covid-19 in the week ending January 29.
This is similar to the 2,366 notifications it received in the week ending January 22.
Overall, there were 8,422 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending January 22 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
This is up 16.2% from the 7,245 deaths in the week to January 15.
Nearly half (45.1%) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to January 22 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate – the highest proportion recorded during the pandemic.
The latest weekly total is the second highest number recorded since the pandemic began, exceeded by the week ending April 24.
All regions of England recorded an increase in registered Covid-19 deaths in the week to January 22, the ONS said.
Three regions saw more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths registered: south-east England (1,734 deaths – the highest weekly total since the pandemic began); London (1,400 deaths – the highest since the week to April 24 2020); and eastern England (1,216 deaths – the highest since the pandemic began).
London had the highest proportion of deaths involving Covid-19, at 57.9%.
In Wales, the number of deaths involving Covid-19 fell 4.3% to 447 deaths – the first fall since the week ending December 4.
A total of 117,378 deaths had occurred in the UK by January 22 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.
Dr Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, said: “These figures, which show the highest proportion of deaths involving Covid recorded during the pandemic, demonstrate the tragic toll the Covid emergency continues to take.
“While there have been early signs in recent days that some of the pressure may be easing, the NHS is far from out of the woods, and while some battles have been won, the war is still raging.
“While the clear progress made on vaccinations is a real NHS success story, health leaders still need more certainty on supplies and delivery logistics, and information on how well the vaccines will guard against important and rapidly spreading new variants like the South African variant.”
Nuffield Trust deputy director of research Sarah Scobie said: “This is a long way from a typical winter. Excess deaths against the five-year average for this time of year are over 40% higher, while London saw twice as many deaths than would have been expected.
“Nearly two-thirds of those dying in hospitals and almost half in care homes are from Covid. As well as the individual tragedies for countless relatives and loved ones, these losses are putting a huge physical and emotional strain on caring staff.
“It now looks like we are passing the peak of daily reported deaths. This peak is yet to unfold in registrations so sadly we are likely to see further rises in these weekly numbers.”
Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group (ICG), which represents providers in North Yorkshire, said: “We can never forget that every number represents the loss of loved ones across the country and we cannot become complacent.
“We are getting mixed messages from the Government and some people might get the impression that the worst is now behind us and we can start to return to normality.
“The vaccine is only half the solution; we must all remain on our guard and do everything we can as a country to get these numbers down. We must be patient, keep following the rules and get on top of Covid-19.”
He added: “The vaccination programme is a success so far, but it must not lead to people thinking we are out of this, because as these figures show, we certainly aren’t.”