The number of deaths linked to coronavirus in the UK has passed 44,000, according to new data.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also showed that care home deaths fell by a third in the week up to 8 May as the impact of COVID-19 on residents continued to be scrutinised.
The latest ONS figures reported 39,071 deaths mentioning “novel coronavirus”, including suspected cases, took place in England and Wales up to 8 May.
Scotland has seen 3,213 deaths involving COVID-19 – the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus – up to 10 May, according to National Records of Scotland figures released last week.
Northern Ireland also reported last week that it suffered 599 deaths related to COVID-19 up to 13 May, data from Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency showed.
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When added with NHS England data, showing a further 1,211 deaths of hospital patients in England who had tested positive for COVID-19, figures suggest the total death toll for the UK has climbed above 44,000.
The ONS statistics will vary from official government figures due to differences in accounting. On Monday, the government’s UK-wide total stood at 34,796 deaths and 246,406 cases.
The latest ONS figures also show about a quarter of coronavirus-related deaths in England and Wales took place in care homes.
In England’s care homes, which have been scrutinised heavily due to their residents’ vulnerability to the coronavirus, 9,495 deaths linked to COVID-19 took place while 480 occurred in Wales’s care homes, the ONS said.
Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall has accused government ministers of being “too slow” to tackle the spread of coronavirus in care homes.
She added: “Social care has not had the same priority as the NHS and these services have not been treated as inexplicably linked.”
Meanwhile, cabinet office minister Michael Gove admitted the government had “big lessons to be learned” about the care home outbreaks and admitted they remained a “challenge”.
However, coronavirus-related deaths in care homes fell for the second week running to 1,666 in the week up to 8 May.
It is a fall from the 2,423 reported for the previous week to that, a decrease of 31%, according to the ONS.
Concerns about care homes continued this week as it was revealed more than a third in England had reported a coronavirus outbreak.
A total of 5,889 had recorded a suspected outbreak of symptomatic or confirmed COVID-19 by 17 May, amounting to 38% of care homes in England.
Speaking to MPs on the health and social care committee, Adelina Comas-Herrera, assistant professorial research fellow at London School of Economics, said it was known by late March that coronavirus could spread in care homes without people showing symptoms.
She added that it had taken a while for several countries to update their guidance, and pointed out that South Korea – lauded for its handling of its outbreak – had not suffered one care home death of COVID-19.
“That is because anybody with suspected COVID was immediately isolated and if they tested positive were removed into quarantine centres, and/or hospitals,” she said.
“So not a single person has died with COVID in a South Korean care home.
“That’s just an example of how quickly they acted to make sure that there wasn’t any possibility of transmission within the care home.”