The UK’s coronavirus death toll has fallen by more than 5,000 after health chiefs agreed to only include people who died within 28 days of a positive test.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) reduced the number following an urgent review into how Public Health England calculates the daily Covid-19 death figures.
Officials said as of today the number of patients who died less than 28 days after testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK was 41,329.
Government figures had previously said 46,706 people died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have been 56,800 deaths registered in Britain where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Until now, the Department of Health had counted anyone who died at any time – of any cause – after testing positive in its daily statistics.
But after backlash against Public Health England’s counting method, which experts said had ‘exaggerated’ the deaths by thousands, officials have backed down and said they will post one-month deaths every day, with a separate weekly count of people who have died within 60 days of their test.
Pictured above are graphs displaying death and infection totals before the death toll was revised
Deaths that occur after 60 days will also be added to these figure if Covid-19 appears on the death certificate, the DHSC added.
Officials said 88 per cent of people who have died of Covid-19 so far have done so within 28 days – a total of 41,329. 96 per cent of deaths occur within 60 days, they said.
The updated figure came as more than 1,000 Britons tested positive for coronavirus for the third time in four days.
The Department of Health today confirmed another 1,009 people were diagnosed with Covid-19, meaning the total number of infections stands at nearly 345,000.
Yesterday, the country recorded its highest number of new cases in seven weeks, with 1,148 infections in a single 24-hour period.
Daily cases were slightly lower on Monday (816), but on Sunday they had soared to four digits (1,062) for the first time since late June, before lockdown was eased.
Today’s new infections take the seven-day average to 1,072, the highest level since the week ending June 24, when there were roughly 1,081 infections a day.
At that point, the country was still in strict lockdown, people were advised to stay at home as much as possible and pubs, restaurants and cinemas remained shut.
The death toll also rose by 77 as officials confirmed they will now only include people who died within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last month ordered an urgent review into how Public Health England (PHE) calculates daily Covid-19 death figures.
Researchers had criticised ‘statistical flaws’ in the way the deaths are reported across England.
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, said: ‘The way we count deaths in people with Covid-19 in England was originally chosen to avoid underestimating deaths caused by the virus in the early stages of the pandemic.
WHY HAS THE DAILY DEATH COUNTING METHOD BEEN CHANGED?
The change to the Department of Health’s death toll comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered Public Health England to review the way it was counting deaths because of a ‘statistical flaw’ that meant officials were over-exaggerating the daily toll.
The original method, statisticians discovered, recorded people as a Covid-19 fatality even if they tested positive in March and died in a car crash in August.
PHE had been counting people by trawling through lists of people who tested positive for Covid-19 to see if they had died, regardless of when or how they passed away.
Victims were included in the daily update if they died of any cause any time after testing positive for Covid-19 – even if they were hit by a bus months after beating the life-threatening infection.
The method is likely why the daily fatality tolls have not dropped as quickly in England as elsewhere – because survivors are never considered truly recovered from the disease.
One of the leading experts who uncovered the flaw told MailOnline his ‘best guess’ was that more than 1,000 people have had their deaths wrongly recorded as caused by Covid-19.
Dr Yoon Loke, a pharmacologist at the University of East Anglia, warned that it is ‘not a good way of collecting data’, has had a significant impact in the past two months and is happening because PHE ‘chose a quick and easy technique’.
And the daily death tolls may not have hit zero ‘for months’ because of a long tail of elderly people who beat Covid-19 but will die of other causes, Dr Loke added. He uncovered the flaw alongside Oxford University’s Professor Carl Heneghan.
Dr Loke said: ‘By this PHE definition, no-one with Covid in England is allowed to ever recover from their illness.’
‘Our analysis of the long-term impact of the infection now allows us to move to new methods, which will give us crucial information about both recent trends and overall mortality burden due to Covid-19.’
The DHSC said that the new methodology follows the recommendation of the four UK chief medical officers that a ‘single consistent’ measure should be adopted across the four countries.
In its review, PHE considered epidemiological evidence to see how likely it was that Covid-19 was a contributory factor to a death at different points in time after a positive test, the department added.
Today’s new infections have put the daily average back on par with mid-June, when much of the country was still in strict lockdown, people were advised to stay at home as much as possible and pubs, restaurants and cinemas remained shut.
The Government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre, which has taken a more prominent role in coordinating the Covid response after a series of failings by Public Health England, says daily cases need to be below 1,000 a day to avoid ‘flare-ups’.
In recent days thousands of Britons have flocked to beaches and parks to cool off during the sweltering heat, making social distancing largely impossible.
There are now growing fears that the virus is making a comeback in the UK, with Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock warning a fortnight ago that a second wave was on its way from Europe.
But some of the UK’s top epidemiologists have repeatedly told MailOnline the climbing rates are simply being caused by an increase in testing capacity, which is skewing the statistics upwards.
The statistics come after official data yesterday showed coronavirus infection rates among all age groups under 65 have been on the rise since lockdown was eased.
Among people aged 15 to 44 in England, the rate has increased by 35 per cent since July 5 – a day after ‘Super Saturday’ when bars, restaurants and cinemas reopened and a large chunk of the workforce returned to work.
A total of 11.9 people per 100,000 population in the age group caught the virus in the week ending August 2, compared to 8.8 per 100,000 five weeks ago.
A combination of people having more social interactions and a ramping up of widespread testing is likely behind the rise, experts say.
The latest Public Health England data shows weekly infections have jumped by 40 per cent in infants during the same time period.
But cases in this age group are still relatively rare, with just 3.8 youngsters per 100,000 being diagnosed per week compared to 2.7 at the start of July.
Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline the reopening of nurseries and pre-schools could be to blame.
He warned: ‘I suspect that young children may be more infectious than we have assumed. This is clearly something that needs to be watched very carefully.’
Among children between five and 15, weekly cases have increased by 32 per cent after climbing from 2.8 per 100,000 to 3.7 in just over a month.
The latest Public Health England data shows weekly infections have jumped by 40 per cent in infants since the week ending July 5
Among children between five and 15, weekly cases have increased by 32 per cent after climbing from 2.8 per 100,000 to 3.7 in just over a month
Among people aged 15 to 44 in England, the rate has increased by 35 per cent since July 5 – a day after ‘Super Saturday’ when bars, restaurants and cinemas reopened and a large chunk of the workforce returned to work
In people aged 45 to 64, infection rates have levelled off – 7.3 people per 100,000 were catching the virus a week in July, compared to 7.8 last week
While cases among children have been climbing, in the older age groups – those who are more at risk of dying if they catch Covid-19 – the rate of infection is stable or falling, with a drop of almost half in the past five weeks among over-85s, from 24.4 to 13.6 cases per 100,000.
Covid-19 deaths in England and Wales are the lowest in 19 WEEKS, official data shows – but there are still more people than average dying in their homes
The number of people dying from coronavirus in England and Wales has dropped to its lowest level in 19 weeks, official figures show.
Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificates of 193 fatalities registered in the week ending July 31, according to the latest report from the Office for National Statistics.
It marks the lowest number of deaths linked to the virus since the week ending March 20, four days before lockdown, when the ONS reported 103 deaths. Deaths have now been at pre-lockdown levels for four weeks in a row.
Around a thousand people were dying from Covid-19 each day at the height of the UK’s crisis in mid-April and the official death toll now stands at 46,595.
But the Government’s death tally only includes victims who had a test confirming they had the virus, which differs from the ONS’ calculations which include all deaths where the virus was a suspected cause.
The ONS says there have been 51,779 deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales up to July 31, while official figures show there have been 4,208 in Scotland and 855 in Northern Ireland.
Together, these figures suggest there have so far been 56,842 deaths registered UK-wide with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate.
Today’s report also found that nearly 700 more people than average died in their homes in the last week of July, amid concerns Britons are still reluctant to use the NHS.
There were a total of 2,915 deaths registered in private homes in England and Wales – 676 higher than the five-year average.
Experts fear people are still hesitant to use healthcare either because they are afraid of catching the virus in hospitals and GP surgeries, or they don’t want to be a burden on the health service.
People in the older high-risk age groups are likely to be taking social distancing and hygiene measures more seriously and therefore continuing to protect themselves after lockdown.
The report also showed that Covid-19 infection rates were falling in all age groups over 65 – who are most at risk of falling seriously ill with the disease.
Experts say it suggests more widespread testing is picking up on younger people who were previously being missed when swabs were reserved for high risk patients.
At the height of the pandemic, in the week leading up to May 3, the infection rate was at 302 per 100,000 people among the over 85s.
As of last week, this had shrunk to 13.6, which is still the highest in any age demographic, which will be largely driven by routine testing in care homes.
In mid-April, there were 150 people aged between 75 and 84 per 100,000 getting infected in a single week. Now, that figure is just 4.8.
Like a lot of countries, Britain struggled to quickly ramp up its testing capacity during the worst of the epidemic.
It meant only very sick people were swabbed for the virus and millions went undiagnosed.
Because elderly people were disproportionately falling severely ill with the disease, they were the ones who were tested, which skewed their infection rates upwards.
But case rates are now starting to level out as people with even mild symptoms are encouraged to take a test on the NHS.
The PHE data shows nearly 1.1million swabs were conducted in the last week alone in England and Wales – eight times more than were done each week in April.
There has been fierce debate about whether the UK is seeing a second wave of Covid-19 since cases started to rise last month.
A total of 1,062 people tested positive for the disease on Saturday – the largest rise in new cases in a single day since the end of June.
It came nearly a fortnight after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary warned that the virus was resurging across Europe and could very well hit the UK again.
But some of the UK’s most renowned scientists have rubbished the idea of a second wave and say the rising infections are simply the result of more testing.
Professor Heneghan, director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, and Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist based at King’s College London, both say there is ‘no evidence’ that cases are spiking anywhere in the UK.
Today’s PHE report showed the number of Pillar 2 tests – swabs done at drive-through centres, at home and in other various community settings – has risen drastically.
Over the last fortnight the number of weekly Pillar 2 tests has risen from 545,662 to 615,648 – which could explain the rise in cases in the last two weeks.
Professor Heneghan has previously told MailOnline that the number of swab tests given to the public through DIY kits sent in the post and at drive-through centres had soared by as much as 80 per cent in some areas of the country, including the North West, which was put into lockdown a fortnight ago.
Source: Daily Mail