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UK nears "worst-case scenario" 50,000 virus deaths


The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 death toll has neared 50,000, a grim figure for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he takes steps to ease the coronavirus lockdown.

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The toll now stands at 49,646, including death certificate data for England and Wales released on Tuesday up to May 22, previous figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland, and recent hospital deaths in England.

In March, Britain’s chief scientific adviser said keeping deaths below 20,000 would be a “good outcome”. In April, Reuters reported the government’s worst-case scenario was 50,000 deaths.

The government says that while it may have made some mistakes it is grappling with the biggest public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak and that it has ensured the health service was not overwhelmed.

Unlike the daily death toll published by the government, Tuesday’s death certificate figures include suspected cases and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

It comes as an official study found that black and Asian people in England are up to 50 per cent more likely to die after being infected with COVID-19, reinforcing previous reports which indicated ethnic minority groups were more at risk from the virus.

The report by Public Health England (PHE) to examine disparities in how the disease affected people, showed there was a significant disproportionate effect on ethnic minorities, while confirming death tolls among the elderly were far higher.

“Death rates from COVID-19 were higher for Black and Asian ethnic groups when compared to White ethnic groups,” the PHE report said.

The report said that people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had approximately twice the risk of death than people who were white British.

Those who are of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani or other Asian ethnicity, as well as those who are Caribbean or other Black ethnicity, had between a 10 to 50 per cent higher risk of death than those in the white British group, PHE said.

The findings echo a previous study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released last month, as well as other reports from Finland to the United States.

While disparities in how COVID-19 affects people by age, gender and wealth reflect previous trends, PHE said the disproportionate mortality among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups was the opposite to what had been seen in recent years.

PHE said that the largest disparity in death rates was in age, with people who were over 80 seventy times more likely to die than those under 40. Men were also more likely to die than women, with death rates also higher in deprived areas.

-with AAP

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