Peak in coronavirus deaths happened on April 8, scientists say

The peak in the number of coronavirus deaths in England and Wales happened on April 8, according to scientists.

The death rate had been consistent for the last 13 days, a panel convened by the Science Media Centre said about the data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday.

Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: “From an epidemiological perspective we can say that the numbers are consistent with the peak happening on April 8.

“We’ve now tracked for 13 days that that has been consistent – it hasn’t jumped up.

“All of the other data surrounding this, the triangulation of the data is showing us that is the case.”

Scientists tracked the death toll for 13 days and noticed they have been consistent. Credit: PA

But he added: “What we are worried about is that in the background someone has made an error and pulled out some data sets.

“Looking at what the ONS are doing now is hugely impressive – I think we can be clear that in this peak it occurred on April 8 and in the last 13 days we’ve seen no change to that.”

Prof Heneghan added: "The second piece of information that really helps us understand what's going on is the proportion of people being admitted to hospital and that - over the next two to three days - if it continues to drop will tell us the peak is over."

But he warned there could be a lag in the number of deaths in nursing homes where figures could continue to rise, even if deaths in hospitals start to decrease.

"The proportion of deaths in nursing homes could have a considerable lag going forward," he said.

There could be a lag in the number of deaths in nursing homes and deaths continue to rise. Credit: PA

When asked if there could be a "second peak" in deaths in care homes,Dr Heneghan said: "The predominant strategy with nursing homes going forward is to ensure that people working there or going in there are tested, so they do not enter with Covid, or that patients coming out of hospital are not seeded into those nursing homes.

"They are important strategies to reduce the problem in nursing homes."

He continued: "I can't answer what happened in terms of the proportion that have been infected and what's gone wrong right now but you can say 'look we need to refocus some of the energy and the strategy in these settings where you've got nearly half a million people living who will be seriously at risk from this disease."

He added: "Not just now, but for next winter - if this becomes a seasonal effect this needs to be really thought through, and sorted in a way that we have a much more robust strategy to shield these nursing homes."

Prof Heneghan said: "What we might see in care homes is what we call 'the long tail'.

"The proportion of deaths might drop in hospitals but the proportion of deaths may go up overall in nursing homes."

He said in the coming weeks statisticians and medics would be focusing on whether the proportion of deaths in nursing homes had gone up as an overall proportion of the total.

"This long tail is an important issue that needs to be thought about because, particularly in the frail and the vulnerable and the elderly, this will be a debilitating disease."

Commenting on the possibility of a second peak in care home settings, Jason Oke, senior statistician at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, said: "I think within care homes that is possible.

But he added: "If you look at the data overall it is less likely to change the peak because they (care home deaths) still make up a minority of the total of deaths.

"But within care homes that could be possible and we could see that and I think we will have a clearer picture when we get next week's publication from the ONS."