More than 32,000 people in the U.K. have now died with suspected COVID-19, the highest official number for any European country so far, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Tuesday.
By May 2 ONS reported the total number of death certificates issued in England and Wales in which COVID-19 was mentioned rose to 29,648. When figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland are added, the number rises to 32,313, Reuters calculated. This exceeds the official death toll of Italy, previously the European country that had lost most citizens to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, experts say that death tolls may well rise in a number of countries, given inconsistencies in how data is collected and processed, and so comparisons between countries are problematic. For example, not all countries include suspected cases in their official figures.
This grim milestone will nonetheless increase the political pressure on the U.K. government, which has been criticized for its response to the crisis. The U.K. government and its scientific advisers repeatedly insist that such comparisons between countries are unhelpful.
Initially, the U.K.’s daily death toll only covered deaths in hospital for people who had tested positive for the virus. This process has now been revised to include deaths in care homes and elsewhere in the community. The ONS issues data for all deaths that mention COVID-19 on death certificates but there is a delay of several days in processing this.