The UK has suffered more deaths from coronavirus than any other country in Europe, reaching a grim milestone that piles further scrutiny on the response to the pandemic by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Tuesday that 29,427 people have died with Covid-19 since the outbreak began, more than in Italy and lower only than the United States. The official figure includes 693 new deaths in the most recent 24-hour period, up to 5 p.m. (12 p.m. ET) Monday.
Italy revised its death count up to 29,315 on Tuesday. The official death toll in the US currently stands at more than 70,000, according to figures collected by Johns Hopkins University.
International comparisons are not flawless because countries count deaths in different ways and with varying levels of accuracy.
Raab said at the daily UK government press briefing that a “real verdict on how countries have done” will not be fully available until after the pandemic is over.
But Italy and Spain – previously considered Europe’s two hardest-hit countries – are also significantly further along in their outbreaks than the UK and are already tentatively lifting some lockdown restrictions.
The development comes just days before Johnson is due to address the country on Sunday.
Johnson is expected to announce the nation’s next steps, with widespread reports in the UK media this week of how the country will ease its lockdown measures.
“It’s now clear that the second phase will be different. We will need to adjust to a new normal,” Raab said on Tuesday.
“We want to make sure that the next phase is more comfortable, is more sustainable,” he added. “But we need to be under no illusions, the next stage won’t be easy.”
But even the most recent government figures only tell a partial story. More data, released earlier on Tuesday, indicated that the true number of deaths by late April far exceeded that which was reported daily by ministers.
England’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) said there were 29,998 deaths in which Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate in the period ending on April 24, or two days later in Scotland. That includes suspected coronavirus-related deaths in all settings, including care homes.
Its figure far exceeds the death toll of 20,732 announced by the government at the same point. At the time, the government did not include patients who died from Covid-19 outside of hospitals.
The UK government last week started including data on deaths outside hospitals in cases where people had tested positive for Covid-19. Previously, the UK-wide figures were only for hospital deaths.
Johnson’s government has been criticized for a lack of testing and for failing to provide adequate amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers.
It did claim to reach its own target of conducting 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, but only for two days and with the help of thousands of tests that were mailed out to households but not completed. The number of tests carried out daily subsequently dropped to 84,000 on Monday and 85,000 the day before.