Office for National Statistics to provide full tally of Covid-19 deaths

The reported death toll from coronavirus in the UK is set to increase beyond the NHS’s daily tally on Tuesday when fatalities outside of hospitals are counted for the first time.

Figures from the NHS and Public Health England have so far been the key barometer of the impact of the virus but they have not included any deaths in homes, care homes and other non-hospital settings. Daily figures for Monday showed a rise in the UK death toll of 209 to 1,408 people, but these are only people who died in NHS care.

Covid-19: deaths outside hospitals to be included in UK tally for first time

Pamela Duncan  www.theguardian.com 

The Office for National Statistics will start publishing data about the rest of the deaths from 9.30am on Tuesday giving a fuller picture of the impact of Covid-19. They will tally all of the deaths from late December until 20 March which they believe occurred outside hospitals.

Unlike the NHS figures, which are limited to people who tested positive for the disease, they will also include cases where it is mentioned as a suspected cause on death certificates.

“It will be based on mentions of Covid-19 on death certificates,” said a spokeswoman for the ONS. “It will include suspected cases of Covid-19 where someone has not been tested positive for Covid-19.”

At the daily Downing Street press conference, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab was asked if the new data release showed the country has only been shown “part of the truth so far”. Raab did not answer, but Patrick Vallance, the chief medical officer, said he did not expect the increase in the death toll from the additional ONS data to be large, adding: “It’s important going forward that we have this reconciliation between all of the numbers.”

Every Tuesday the statistics authority will provide a backdated weekly count of all suspected coronavirus deaths of people who have died in their homes, care homes or hospices, which will be published in a combined form with the figures drawn from the daily death toll announced by the NHS in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The figures will be backdated to the previous week, starting with the week ending 20 March. It will include the ages of the people who died and give a regional breakdown.

Officials said that focusing so far only on hospital deaths, about which information is immediately available, has allowed the NHS and PHE to produce rapid and up-to-date figures. Deaths which occur out of hospitals can take longer to trace statistically because of the time it can take for paperwork to pass through coroners’ offices. But it has resulted in only a partial picture of the virus’s impact. Some of the hospital fatalities have also been slow to be recorded. One death reported on Monday actually occurred 17 days earlier.

The Department for Health and Social Care publishes daily UK-wide figures in a statement on its website which makes no mention that its figure of “patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus” do not include deaths outside hospitals.

Public Health England’s own online dashboard of the spread of the virus in the UK describes “reported cases of coronavirus in the UK”. Only if you click on a link “about the data” does it explain that it is limited to deaths in NHS services of patients who have had a positive test result for Covid-19.

A spokesperson for NHS England said it was “clear from the start these are people who have died in our hospitals”.

There are sometimes significant delays in deaths appearing in the NHS England figures. One death reported on Monday actually occurred on 13 March in Mid Essex hospital services NHS trust, a 17-day lag. Another, first reported on Saturday, actually occurred in Sandwell and West Birmingham hospitals NHS trust on 13 March.

At least 33 deaths which were reported by NHS England between Thursday and Sunday actually occurred more than a week earlier.

Of the 159 newly reported deaths recorded by NHS England today, at least 30% occurred on or before 27 March.

“There are various reasons why a hospital trust might delay reporting a death, including contact tracing, the internal validation processes and staff absences. For sheer capacity reasons, it’s occasionally necessary for some trusts to report over a longer time period,” an NHS spokesperson said.

  • This article was amended on 31 March 2020. In it, we gave the UK death toll as 2,433. This has been corrected to 1,408.

 

Fall in Covid-19 tests putting lives at risk, critics claim

Ministers have been accused of putting lives at risk by failing to rapidly expand testing for coronavirus as promised, after fewer than 5,000 people were tested in one day.

Critics said the government had been misleading people about the scale of its testing programme as it became clear the UK has still not met its initial aim of 10,000 daily tests.

Rowena Mason  www.theguardian.com

Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, claimed over the weekend that the goal had been met. But it emerged on Monday that the level of testing had dipped over the weekend, with just 4,908 people tested in the 24 hours before 9am on Sunday.

On Friday, 9,114 tests were carried out on about 6,900 people, with the disparity due to the need for multiple tests following inconclusive results. This dropped on Saturday to 8,278 tests on 4,908 patients – the latest figures available.

The numbers contrast sharply with those of other countries such as Germany, which is conducting around 70,000 tests daily, or half a million a week.

After the data showed yet another drop in UK testing, Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary and Tory chair of the Commons health select committee, as well as opposition parties called on the government to focus on increasing mass testing across the country to detect, isolate and prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has killed 1,408 people in the UK so far. The World Health Organization has urged countries to “test, test, test”.

“The big advantage we now have is evidence that testing works in other countries. We can see that Asian countries have been spectacularly more successful than European ones in avoiding mass lockdown,” Hunt told the Guardian.

A senior source at the Department of Health and Social Care said the UK did not have as much domestic laboratory capacity as Germany but had been working hard to increase numbers.

However, another Whitehall source said the UK’s main problem was that it had tried to source the tests too late after changing strategy in favour of a lockdown, and was now facing stiff competition from other countries around the world.

Keir Starmer, the favourite to become Labour leader, said it was “deeply worrying that the number of people being tested for coronavirus has fallen”.

“Experts across the world have been clear that the best chance we have of fighting this pandemic is to significantly increase the number of people who are being tested, particularly health workers,” he said.

“Ministers need to explain why the NHS is not testing to capacity, why we are falling behind other countries and what measures they will put in place to address this situation as a matter of urgency.”

Munira Wilson, a Liberal Democrat MP and the party spokeswoman on health, also accused the government of having been “not only misleading but reckless” in failing to reach the promised number of tests.

“Stopping the spread of coronavirus is hugely dependent on the public trusting the information and advice the government provides. This sort of behaviour puts that at risk and endangers us all as a result,” she said.

The government has until the last few days limited testing to people with suspected coronavirus in hospitals, care homes and prisons. But it expanded testing to around 900 NHS workers over the weekend and has pledged to increase that further as numbers ramp up. However, it has not set out any plans to widen testing to all suspected cases, as happens in countries such as South Korea.

It is almost three weeks since ministers first promised an increase in testing to 10,000 a day, which has still not been met. The next target, set by Hancock on 18 March, was for testing to increase to 25,000 a day within four weeks of that date.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the target was on course to be met, but Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, suggested in a press conference on Monday that it could take another month to reach. She referred to the “25,000 tests per day that Public Health England and NHS England are well on the way to meeting by mid-to-late April”.

Asked about the government’s failure to reach the 10,000 target, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said: “We are operating on multiple fronts to increase the testing. We want to scale that up as swiftly as possible but it has got to be reliable.”

Downing Street appeared to blame Public Health England for the false claim by Gove, saying he had been relying on information given to him by the health experts.

After a week of lockdown conditions in the UK, government advisers said there was some signs the spread of the virus may be slowing.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, said Johnson’s guidance on social distancing had been “successful in terms of behaviour changes”, with data showing “a dramatic fall-off in the use of the London tube, bus routes, rail and motor vehicles”.

The rate of hospital admissions was advancing at a steady rate and now stood at 8,000, Vallance said. He said this “may suggest we are beginning to see some effects through” from the government’s initial social distancing advice, announced two weeks ago.

 

Coronavirus: ‘Desperate’ East Devon NHS workers forced to ‘beg, borrow and steal’ protective equipment

East Devon NHS workers having to ‘beg, borrow and steal’ protective equipment have had their concerns taken to the area’s MP by Claire Wright, county councillor and former parliamentary candidate for East Devon.

Councillor Wright was contacted by a ‘desperate East Devon NHS worker’ who is concerned that equipment is not in place to deal with a predicted surge in coronavirus cases over the next two weeks.

Joseph Bulmer  exmouth.nub.news 

In an open letter to the area’s MP, Simon Jupp, councillor Wright asked for reassurance that the necessary protective equipment will be delivered to East Devon’s NHS workers this week.

Nub News asked Mr Jupp for his response to the open letter, he said he has asked the Department of Health and Social Care for details on the equipment’s delivery.

In the letter councillor Wright said: “The predicted surge in cases for Devon is around 10-14 days time. We will need to see patients with suspected and confirmed CV 19 in hot sites and I am worried that we will run out very quickly. There’s quite a lot of beg borrow and steal going on.”

“The above words are taken from an email I received from a desperate East Devon NHS worker this morning extremely anxious about facing the coming weeks without adequate personal protective equipment.

“We have of course, heard disturbing stories from NHS staff via the media, about the lack of PPE and how vulnerable they feel to infection and potentially worse, with a continued significant virus load, while working on the front line.

“I am aware of Robert Jenrick’s welcome words this afternoon, but I am not yet sure how this translates into supplies for East Devon.

“Can you please reassure me and all the local health workers that those supplies of PPE for every NHS staff member will be received by the middle of this week (Wednesday 1 April)?”

Nub News contacted the area’s MP, Simon Jupp, for a response to councillor Wright’s open letter, he said: “I have asked for further details on the specific case raised in the email as it always helps to highlight specific local concerns from NHS workers to press the case further to help ensure all frontline staff have access to the necessary equipment to stay safe.

“I had already requested further PPE delivery details from the Department of Health & Social Care and the Cabinet Office.

“As I’m sure you recognise, all elected representatives have a duty to work together in times of crisis for the good of our communities. I have spoken with many councillors in weeks on a variety of different issues and continue to do so.”

LED Community Leisure asks for Sidmouth’s support

LED Leisure is asking its members in Sidmouth for support during the coronavirus lock down.

LED, which runs Sidmouth Swimming Pool, is asking its members not to cancel their direct debits so that the organisation can continue to function once the lockdown is lifted.

Joseph Bulmer  sidmouth.nub.news

LED Community Leisure is a not-for-profit Community Benefit Society with charitable status.

The organisation’s charitable status does entitle it to some financial support from local councils but 90% of its income is generated by members, through its centres across East Devon.

As a result of the Prime Minister’s announcement on Friday, March 20, that all leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools were to close with immediate effect LED’s income has fallen dramatically.

In response to the announcement LED has ‘frozen’ all membership collections, including monthly direct debits. The suspension means that no payments will be taken and when members re-start their membership there will be no re-joining fee.

LED is asking members to, ‘please do not cancel your direct debit’.

LED’s CEO, Peter Gilpin, has made a statement to members, he said: “As you can imagine, the facility closures and suspension of membership income will have a very serious effect on our finances.

“The various government support initiatives are welcome. It is likely that most staff at LED will have to be ‘furloughed’, for example – i.e. laid off and paid 80% of their salary by the government – as LED will have virtually no ongoing income.

“Some key staff will need to be retained on site to keep the facilities operational, albeit in a state of ‘hibernation’, ready for when we have the green light to reopen. Some key administrative staff will also need to be retained as many services, support contracts and partnerships will need to continue.

“Whilst LED is taking every action to minimise or reduce costs during this period, it is inevitable that the Trust will need to rely upon its financial reserves to survive the next few months in order to be able to reopen facilities and re-employ furloughed staff in due course. However, like many charities, these reserves are finite, and it will be a challenge to ensure that LED gets through what will undoubtedly be a very difficult period.

“So, my purpose for writing is to give you the above update and to ask you if you would please give LED your continued support by opting to continue your membership subscription during these difficult times, which we have no idea how long they may last.

“If you would kindly do so, I shall take your loyalty and support into account in 2021 when it comes to next year’s fees, by which time I hope the worst of this should be over. This will take the form of an extension for Annual memberships and a payment holiday for monthly memberships equivalent to the eventual closure period.

“However, I do appreciate that for some of you, continuing your membership at this difficult time may not be possible due to your personal circumstances, in which case you need do nothing as your membership has been automatically suspended.

“If you would kindly agree to continuing your membership subscription and for us to reactivate your suspended membership, please confirm using this email link opt-in@ledleisure.co.uk

“Although our centres will be closed, the good news is that you can still exercise with LED Community Leisure. We have put plans in place to offer a range of exercise options to keep you active in the safety and comfort of your own home. For those at home with school-aged children, we will also have ideas for how you can have fun exercising together.

You can access a free streaming site with access to 95 workouts across 8 categories via Les Mills online.

We are also planning to run regular Facebook Live exercise at home videos for you to join in with.

Mr Gilpin added: “As a community leisure trust, we want to be in a position where we can reopen for our local communities as soon as possible, with all our team members back on board, after this unprecedented and worrying situation subsides.

“I do very much hope that LED can count on your continued support in order to ensure the sustainability of our services, facilities and staff beyond the current crisis, and thank you so much for your patience and support to date.”

 

Son’s fears for mum, 100, as closing Budleigh care home will move OAPs despite coronavirus lockdown.

An anguished son fears his 100-year-old mum will die from coronavirus as her closing Budleigh Salterton care home forges ahead to move vulnerable pensioners out during lockdown.

Owl recently reported on this sad story.

Owl understands that a group of local people are desperately beseeching Simon Jupp MP to get County Councillor Christine Channon and her advisor Chris Davies, and Abbeyfield to put a halt to the Care Home’s  (Shandford) closure. Councillor Channon has been reported in the press as saying she received advice last autumn that the home was no longer viable.

Professional property and business experts, members of “Save our Shandford” hotly dispute this finding but have been denied access to any details.

Becca Gliddon  eastdevonnews.co.uk 

Jessie Gannon in happier times, celebrating her 100th birthday with her family.

Richard Gannon is appealing to Abbeyfield, which is closing Shandford care home, ‘If my mother is to die, please let her die in relative peace in the home she loves’.

The Abbeyfield Society and Devon County Council said Shandford’s elderly could be safely moved out during lockdown on the advice of Public Health England.

Mr Gannon, 69, from Payhembury, has not seen his mum, Jessie, since the Budleigh home went into lockdown several weeks ago.

Jessie Gannon is 100-years-old and faces being moved to another home amid the coronavirus lockdown, because Abbeyfield has decided to close Shandford, in Budleigh Salterton, where she has lived for more than two years.

On Mother’s Day he waved at her though a window because relatives have been banned from visiting to protect residents from Covid-19.

Mr Gannon, whose mum moved to Shandford more than two years ago, said: “Nobody should be moving vulnerable people out of that house. It’s breaking hearts and killing people.

“If a vulnerable person gets this, there’s a good chance they will die. I don’t want them to die anywhere else, apart from there. They are happy in their home.

“I don’t care whether they want to close the home or move them. Nobody should be moving about.

“If she’s going to die, which is a high possibility, I would like her to die in a place with people she knows and the lovely staff. She will be happy and I will be happy.”

Earlier this year Abbeyfield said it hoped to close Shandford by March 31, saying it was ‘not a viable option’ to keep it open.

Mr Gannon called for decency, appealing to Abbeyfield to ‘leave alone until the crisis is over’.

Why Boris Johnson is finally turning to the experts

The deep irony of Michael “people in this country have had enough of experts” Gove solemnly reassuring an anxious public that the government is being guided by the best expert advice had not been lost on anyone. That Mr Gove can say such things with such a poker face is a tribute, of sorts, to his political skills.

@_seanogrady  www.independent.co.uk

One of the most remarkable innovations during this crisis has been the rise, or perhaps restoration, of the rule of the expert in public life. When the public need to learn more about the coronavirus, why it spreads so quickly and what we can do to try and avoid it, they turn to a range of scientists and, yes, to some journalists for the closest approximation to the truth as can be attempted. Never before have so many doctors and scientists popped up on television. The public do not, on the whole, turn to the politicians, though the relatively high approval ratings enjoyed by Boris Johnson suggest that trust in politics may not be as bad as some suppose, at least for the time being. But the experts carry the authority needed to get on top of a such as this. 

Hence the habitual appearance of various medical and scientific officers flanking the politicians at the daily press conferences held in Downing Street and by the Scottish government. And, indeed, at the White House, where even President Trump must treat them with some respect.

The appearance of the experts has a few purposes. First, no politician with a degree in Classics or PPE (philosophy, politics and economics, in this case) can answer questions about epidemiology, or any other scientific -ology for that matter. They are forced by circumstance to have people sharing a platform with them who are under no obligation to spin the facts. The benefit, though, is that the politicians can nod sagely as they explain about infection rates and herd immunity, and hope some of that expert gravitas may rub off on them, even from two metres away.

A second advantage for the politicians is that the presence of experts and the constantly stated obligation to follow their guidance gives ministers a perfect alibi if things go awry. If, for example, it turns out that the national lockdown was ordered too late, then the prime minister can, in effect, offload the blame to the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser. The maxim “advisers advise, ministers decide” will be quietly dropped in such a turn of events. The experts can carry the can, fairly or not. A variation on the theme will be that the Scottish government can blame Whitehall for getting it wrong. 

So far, though, both politicians and experts seem to have been getting through the crisis without too much collateral damage, despite the embarrassing self-isolation of the PM, the health secretary Matt Hancock, the CMO Chris Whitty, and now Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief political adviser. The next few weeks, as the emergency reaches its peak, will put the credibility of the experts under unparalleled strain. 

See also: Ex-officials with experience of crises recalled to Whitehall

Rajeev Syal  www.theguardian.com

 

Stop bank dividend payouts, governor of the Bank of England told

Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, came under fresh pressure last night to put a stop to £7.5 billion of dividends due to be paid out by British banks over the next few weeks.

Patrick Hosking, Katherine Griffiths  www.thetimes.co.uk

Agustín Carstens, head of the Bank for International Settlements — known as the central bank for central banks — called for a global freeze on dividends in the sector. On Friday the European Central Bank ordered eurozone lenders to cancel all dividends until at least October.

In an appeal for action by supervisors to ensure that lenders are equipped to push out the huge amount of extra credit needed to keep companies afloat, Mr Carstens said: “Banks should be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

Earlier, Sir John Vickers, former chairman of the Independent Commission on Banking, told The Times: “For the sake of the health of the financial system, dividend payouts by banks should now be totally out of the question. I’m surprised the Bank hasn’t yet put a stop to them. It should do so at once.”

With Barclays due to pay out £1.03 billion this Friday, the Bank of England would have to move quickly to prevent the outflow. Robert Jenkins, a former Bank financial policy committee member, said yesterday that the payout would hinder Barclays’ ability to lend as much as £20 billion to £25 billion to struggling firm businesses and households at a critical time. He has called for a ban on dividends.

The chief executives of about eight banks will meet officials from the Financial Conduct Authority today to discuss ways to improve service to customers. The talks are expected to include bonuses and dividends, as regulators want banks to retain their financial firepower to help customers.

One former senior regulator said that it was puzzling to see the inaction of the Bank and the Prudential Regulation Authority, its supervisory division. A co-ordinated ban by all the biggest central banks would be better, the source said.

Any backtracking on dividends, however, would be likely to infuriate shareholders because Britain’s banks have been paying out billions of pounds in cash bonuses to executives and staff over the past few weeks. Jes Staley, chief executive of Barclays, has been paid a cash bonus of £395,000 in the past few days, while other executives and employees have been paid cash bonuses of £1.01 billion since March 1.

Tim Bush, head of governance at Pirc, the shareholder advisory group, said, “Companies cancelling dividends create a pay issue where management bonuses and incentive plans for 2019 have paid out when the final dividend for 2019 hasn’t.”

Last night, Barclays was still planning to go ahead with its 6p-a-share dividend, which is due to be followed by payments of $4.2 billion by HSBC on April 14, £968 million by Royal Bank of Scotland on May 14 and £1.58 billion by Lloyds Banking Group on May 27.

While all of them looked comfortably capitalised at their year-ends on December 31, their potential strength could be seriously reduced by the economic slump.

Mr Staley personally stands to be paid dividends of £317,000 on Friday because of his holding of 5.3 million Barclays shares. He also owns another 7.2 million shares, but these have not vested and do not qualify for dividends. Any decision on pulling the dividend would be for the full board.

Barclays would face a particular legal problem in cancelling its dividend because the record date — the moment when a shareholder ceases to qualify for a declared dividend — has already been passed. To cancel now would put every shareholder who has sold between the record date and now at a disadvantage.

On the other han, accounting regulators have made plain that dividend payers should exercise great caution.

Mr Carstens, in an article on FT.com, said that banks should be drawing on their capital reserves to make more credit available. “To boost lending capacity further, we need a global freeze on bank dividends and share buybacks,” he said. The BIS in Basel is owned by the world’s central banks and is highly influential in setting capital rules.

The promised dividend largesse by the big British clearing banks stands in stark contrast to much of the rest of UK business, with more than £4.2 billion of promised dividends cancelled or postponed by more than 100 companies in the past two weeks.

Barclays believes that it is financially strong and well diversified and should go ahead with the dividend. The Bank of England and Barclays declined to comment.