UK pushes back against COVID-19 death toll comparison with Italy

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LONDON: Facing questions over why Britain’s death toll from the new coronavirus was now the second-worst in Europe after Italy, a British minister said yesterday people should not jump to conclusions and the full picture was not yet clear.

The death toll was 28,131 as of May 1, just short of the Italian total, increasing pressure on the conservative government which has been accused by the opposition of having acted too slowly in the early stages of the outbreak.

Ministers have rejected comparisons of the headline death toll with that of other countries, saying that excess mortality the number of deaths from all causes that exceed the average for the time of year was a more meaningful metric.

The most recent available data showed there were almost 12,000 excess deaths in England and Wales in the week to April 17. Of these, just under 9,000 were linked on the death certificates to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Analysis by media including Sky News and the Financial Times suggests those figures are worse than in other European countries.

Appearing on Sky News on Sunday, transport minister Grant Shapps rejected a suggestion that the evidence on excess mortality showed the government’s response to the outbreak had failed.  —Agencies

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