Coronavirus: UK hospital deaths pass 20,000

More than 20,000 people have now died with coronavirus in UK hospitals, the Department of Health has announced.

The latest figures showed a total of 20,319 deaths in the UK, up by 813 on the previous day.

At the government’s daily briefing, the home secretary described the figure as a “tragic and terrible milestone”.

Last month, the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said keeping deaths below 20,000 would be a “good outcome”.

At the Downing Street briefing, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “As the deaths caused by this terrible virus pass another tragic and terrible milestone, the entire nation is grieving.”

It is 51 days since the first virus-related death was announced in the UK.

The government’s figures do not account for deaths that have happened in care homes, at home, in hospices or elsewhere in the community.

These are measured separately by the Office for National Statistics, based on death certificates, and a weekly figure is announced each Tuesday.

Last week that figure indicated that there were at least 1,662 deaths, up to 10 April, that were above the hospital-based number.

The fact we have now passed the grim milestone outlined by Sir Patrick Vallance in less than two months is both a tragedy for the families affected and a worry to the rest of the country.

There are strong signs – at least in hospitals – that we have passed the peak of deaths.

The fact that may have happened without the health service being overwhelmed in the way Italy’s was is at least some good news.

However, the deaths in care homes, which the daily figures from government do not include, are rising rapidly and could prove very difficult to get under control.

In fact, if we included them we would have passed the 20,000 mark some time ago.

Read more analysis from Nick here.

On 17 March, Sir Patrick told MPs “the hope” was to keep the UK death toll below 20,000. At the time the number of deaths in UK hospitals stood at 71.

That ambition was later echoed by NHS England medical director Prof Stephen Powis, who said the UK would have “done very well in this epidemic” if deaths remained below that figure.

Speaking at Saturday’s briefing, Prof Powis said it was a “very sad day for the nation”, adding that his “heart goes out to families and friends of those loved ones”.

Asked about his and Sir Patrick’s previous comments, Prof Powis said: “What we were emphasising is that this is a new virus, a global pandemic, a once-in-a-century global health crisis.

“And this was going to be a huge challenge not just for the UK, but for every country.”

Four other countries to date have announced an official number of coronavirus-related deaths exceeding 20,000 – the US, Spain, Italy and France.

Globally, confirmed coronavirus cases stand at more than 2.8m, with the figure of 200,000 deaths expected to be reached imminently.

“Even in countries that have got on top of this early on we are unfortunately beginning to see new infections,” Prof Powis said.

“So I think the first thing to emphasise is that this unfortunately is not going to be something we will begin to get over in the next few weeks.

“This is something we are going to have to continue working our way through over the months ahead – as I have said before this is not a sprint, this will be a marathon.”

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