The number of coronavirus deaths in English care homes could have doubled in the five days over the Easter bank holiday weekend, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Department of Health (DoH) has said.
Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) say there were 975 coronavirus deaths in care homes in England by April 10.
However figures compiled by care regulator - the CQC - for the period up to April 15 said the number of coronavirus care home deaths between April 11 and April 15 “could be double the number of care home deaths reported” by the ONS.
The new figures are likely to confirm that almost 2,000 people died in care homes over the Easter bank holiday weekend.
The CQC figures also indicate there may be a “significant” in deaths not related to Covid-19 among residents.
In a joint statement, the CQC and DoH said: "The ONS data published yesterday covers the period until 10 April.
“CQC's current preliminary analysis is up to 15 April; it is anticipated that the number of deaths in care homes relating to COVID-19 reported by providers between 11 April and 15 April could be double the number of care home deaths reported yesterday."
Professor Chris Whitty said, during the Downing Street daily Covid-19 briefing, the ONS figures are “relatively modest.”
England’s Chief Medical Officer said coronavirus “causes severe disease and death in a minority and an increasing minority as you go up in age.”
“Many people in care homes and nursing homes in particular, who have co-existing medical problems, they are a very vulnerable group,” Professor Whitty added.
Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, has said there could be a “considerable lag” in deaths in nursing homes.
Dr Heneghan added: "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.”
The news comes after one care home boss said some protective equipment was now more than 24 times more expensive than it was before the pandemic.
Joyce Pinfield, a director at the National Care Association, said: "Just for basic surgical masks, we used to be paying something like 9p each plus VAT, at the moment it can range up to £2.20 per mask."
Ms Pinfield said providers were paying thousands of pounds for deliveries that would only last a few days.
She explained: "If you are unlucky enough to have people that need this protective equipment all the time because they have got the virus within the care home, they can be using 10 masks per day.
"I have friends of mine who have been spending about £8,000 every 10 days just purely on masks."