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UK virus death toll jumps by thousands


Britain’s virus death toll has jumped to Europe’s second-worst – up from its previous fourth place – after including COVID-19 deaths in all settings instead of only deaths in hospitals in official figures.

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Public Health England said overnight that 26,097 people had died from the virus across the UK, lifting it above both the official tolls of both Spain and France, but behind Italy.

“These more complete data will give us a fuller and more up to date picture of deaths in England and will inform the government’s approach as we continue to protect the public,” Yvonne Doyle, medical director at PHE, said.

Before yesterday, UK government figures only included virus deaths in hospitals – not in aged care or private homes.

The official figure for Monday was 21,092 – thousands below the number released overnight.

The government agreed to include wider figures after statistics showed the actual virus death toll was likely to be significantly higher than published.

Italy, which based its toll on deaths following positive tests in all settings, said another 323 people had died overnight, taking the total to 27,682

The number of officially confirmed cases, which includes those who have died and recovered, amounts to 203,591, while those registered as currently carrying the illness declined to 104,657 from 105,205 on Tuesday.

There were 1795 people in intensive care on Wednesday against a previous 1863, maintaining a long-running decline. Of those originally infected, 71,252 were declared recovered against 68,941 a day earlier.

Italy has now tested more than 1.3 million people out of a population of about 60 million.

US deaths from the novel coronavirus topped 60,000 overnight to increase its lead for the world’s worst toll.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state has recorded 23,000 deaths, accused US political leaders of dangerous partisanship in their response to the  pandemic in the lead up to a presidential election.

“The politicalisation of what we are going through in this country is extraordinarily dangerous,” Cuomo said.

“I’ve heard this music before. This is the music of a campaign season, this is the music of a rally, and balloons and ‘It’s us versus them’ and ‘We’re good and they’re bad’ and that is poison right now as to where we are,” he said.

With millions of Americans out of jobs since the lockdowns went into effect and no overall federal plan beyond general guidelines issued by the White House on April 16, states and cities facing potential economic disaster have taken it upon themselves to decide when and how to ease restrictions, depending on their individual circumstances.

Public health experts have urged caution, saying that a curtailment of social distancing without large-scale virus testing or the means to trace close contacts of infected individuals could trigger a second wave of infections.

Cuomo said New York will not reopen until certain metrics are met, but hospitalisations had dropped for a third week.

Russia has reported 5841 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its overall nationwide case tally to 99,399.

The official nationwide death toll reached 972 on Wednesday after 108 people with the virus died in the last 24 hours, Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said.

-with AAP

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