– UK records 26,097 coronavirus deaths as of April 28
– Toll includes deaths outside hospital settings for the first time
Britain’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped to 26,097 on Wednesday – the second-highest in Europe behind Italy and third-highest in the world – as the government took into account fatalities outside hospital, including care homes, for the first time.
The increase came after surprise news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had become a father again at age 55, several months earlier than expected, and just weeks after he was taken to hospital with Covid-19.
Downing Street announced that his partner, Carrie Symonds, 32, prompting messages of congratulation from across the political spectrum at home and abroad.
The rare good news was soured however by the additional 4,419 deaths in the overall coronavirus death toll, just as Johnson, who returned to work on Monday, is under pressure to ease a month-long lockdown.
Until now, Britain had reported only deaths of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 in hospital but there has been mounting concern about high numbers of unreported victims in the wider community.
On Tuesday, the Office for National Statistics said deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending April 17 were running at roughly double the five-year average and were the highest weekly total since 1993.
Raab said there were an additional 3,811 deaths included in the outbreak since the start of March, on top of figures from the last 24 hours.
“They don’t represent a sudden surge in the number of deaths,” he said.
Britain has now leapfrogged the tolls in France and Spain and is the second-worst affected country in Europe, behind Italy’s 27,682 deaths.
The United States had the world’s worst death toll with 60,967 by Thursday.
Britain has widened its testing regime for Covid-19 to care homes, the over-65s and people unable to work from home, as part of increased measures to curb the outbreak.
A total of 85 frontline workers in the state-run National Health Service (NHS) have died from the coronavirus, and 23 in social care, according to the government.
There remain questions about the provision of personal protective equipment to medics and others dealing with patients, and the availability of testing.
Britain shut non-essential shops and services, and ordered people to stay at home except to shop for groceries and medicines, on March 27.
A review of the measures is expected on May 7, amid dire warnings about the economic impact and indications of frustration at the continued confinement.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer criticised Johnson’s response to the world’s worst public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak. Johnson had spoken of Britain’s “apparent success” in tackling Covid-19 in a speech to the nation on Monday.
“We are possibly on track to have one of the worst death rates in Europe,” Starmer told parliament. “Far from success, these latest figures are truly dreadful,” he added, referring to previously published data.