The number of deaths recorded in England and Wales has hit a record high amidst warnings Britain’s GDP could shrink by 35% while unemployment may double to 3.4 million in the next two months.
The dire forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) says the economy faces its biggest quarterly decline in at least a century, caused by the lockdown and measures taken to try and control the coronavirus pandemic.
“These are tough times and there will be more to come,” said chancellor Rishi Sunak, responding to the OBR report that suggests a 35% contraction of the UK economy between April and June causing a massive surge in unemployment.
“Right now, the single most important thing we can do for the health of our economy is to protect the health of our people,” said Sunak, having ruled out reducing lockdown restrictions to stimulate the economy.
Sunak – ‘Our economy’s going to take a significant hit’
The chancellor said: “At a time when we are seeing hundreds of people dying every day from this terrible disease, the absolute priority must be to focus all of our resources – not just of the state but of businesses and all of you at home as well – in a collective national effort to beat this virus.”
He said measures put in place, such as the job-retention scheme, “can significantly mitigate” the impact but conceded “our economy’s going to take a significant hit” and “people are going to feel that in their jobs and in their household incomes.”
Sunak said “it will be difficult in the short-term” but the measures taken “will mean that we can recover quickly and strongly and get our lives and economy back to normal.”
The OBR analysis is based on assuming the lockdown will last three months and Robert Chote, the OBR chairman said the 35.1% economic decline in the financial quarter to June would be the largest “in living memory”.
Record number of deaths in a week
The figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show more than 16,000 deaths in the week ending April 3 – marking a record high in the country’s history, and being 6,000 more than the five year average for this time of year.
“This is not normal,” said ONS official Nick Stripe, describing the escalating number of deaths as “hugely significant” given it has happened when mortality rates normally decline when winter ends.
“The provisional number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 3 April 2020 (Week 14) was 16,387,” states the report, adding “21.2% of all deaths” registered mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, with 90.2% of those occurring in hospital and “the remainder occurring in hospices, care homes and private homes.”
‘Elderly being treated like lambs to the slaughter’
The official data records deaths in hospitals and concerns are escalating about unreported Covid-19 deaths and the impact the virus is having on elderly care home residents.
Baroness Rosalind Altmann, a Conservative peer, said some care home residents felt the elderly were being treated like “lambs to the slaughter,” while the boss of Britian’s largest operator of care homes, HC-One said the virus was present in 232 of its 329 residential premises.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said on Monday (April 13,) there were 92 new outbreaks of coronavirus in care homes in the previous 24 hours, affecting 13.5% of care homes.
With escalating concerns about the recording of coronavirus cases in care homes, the work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey denied deaths of care home residents are being “airbrushed out” of the government’s official figures.
Reporting method is ‘trustworthy, quick and accrurate,’ says minister
Coffey said the reporting method for these deaths was “trustworthy” and that recording hospital deaths is “done because it’s accurate and quick” and provides the government with a “daily update”.
“Meanwhile, on a weekly basis, the Office for National Statistics is collating the deaths across the country,” Coffey told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “That allows them to bring in where deaths have been recorded outside a hospital setting, and where coronavirus has been identified by doctors who sign the death certificate.”
The care home regulator in England, the Care Quality Commission, said it will begin recording deaths in adult social from this week.
Charities demand Hancock takes action
Age UK, the Alzheimer’s Society, Marie Curie, Care England and Independent Age have demanded the health secretary Matt Hancock puts in place a care package to support social care during the coronvirus outbreak as well as providing a daily update on the number of deaths in the care system.
“The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter,” said Age UK’s director Caroline Abrahams.
The latest figures released by the Department for Health show an additional 778 coronavirus deaths across the UK with the total number of hospital deaths of people with Covid-19 climbing to 12,107.