BRITAIN could see no new “excess deaths” from coronavirus by July, according to a leading expert.
The UK has seen the highest death toll from COVID-19 in Europe, as the number of deaths registered in England and Wales with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 reached 44,401 by May 22, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). When more recent figures from the NHS and from statistics authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are added in, the tally hits 50,032. The UK has also seen 277,985 confirmed cases of the virus.
Professor Carl Heneghan, an Oxford University epidemiologist, says that Britain is on track to have zero COVID-19 deaths by July.
He also expects no ‘excess deaths’ when weekly data taking into account suspected and confirmed deaths is published next Tuesday.
When asked during a Science Media Centre briefing whether he expects deaths from COVID-19 to stop or plateau, Professor Heneghan said: “If the trends continue, the deaths look like they will be back to where they should be normally by next week.
“There’s been a continued reduction in hospital deaths, care home outbreaks are coming down so the ‘all deaths’ by (week) 22 I’m expecting will be back to where we should be.”
It comes as The Department of Health revealed 324 more people had died across all settings on Tuesday.
Each nation’s health agency reported their own figures earlier today – including 12 in Scotland, seven in Wales and two in Northern Ireland.
Today’s official Government figure, which brings the total closer to 40,000, is 68 per cent lower than the Tuesday a fortnight ago, when 545 deaths were recorded following a lag in reporting over the bank holiday.
Processes for recording people’s deaths are known for slowing down and even stopping at the weekends and on bank holidays, meaning there is a dip every Monday, followed by surges on Tuesdays.
The weekly report from ONS said there were 12,288 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending May 22, known as ‘Week 21’.
Professor Heneghan also said there may be no COVID-19 deaths by the end of June – which would follow Spain yesterday.
Italy is still reporting between 50 and 100 deaths per day, and France around 30.
But Heneghan said: “It also depends on what happens next, within sporadic outbreaks.”
He warned that there will be spikes in deaths with further outbreaks in care homes, and said information on how many people are catching the virus in hospital would “give us a really good understanding of the spreading of this disease”.
Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, also tempered expectations about no deaths in July.
He said: “I certainly don’t want to be a prophet of gloom, but I would urge some caution about these positive trends.
“The new week’s data would not yet have been affected by the loosening of the lockdown. That began to happen in the previous week (ending 15 May), though most changes occurred much more recently.
“If any of the changes turn out to have increased infections, that won’t show up in death statistics yet anyway, because obviously there is a time gap between infection and death.
“But we’ll see eventually.”
It comes as the government begins to move the nation out of lockdown and back to work and school as the number of new deaths and cases continue to tumble.
At this evening’s press Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the trend for daily infections is ‘broadly down but there is still some way to go’, as the total number of positive tests neared 278,000.
Mr Hancock said the number of new admissions for COVID-19 in England has fallen to the lowest since March 20, and demonstrates progress against the disease.
Daily admissions are down seven percent since last Tuesday.