The number of care home deaths linked to coronavirus has risen sharply, new figures show.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) recorded 4,343 deaths of care home residents in England between April 10 to 24, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
It is the first time data from the CQC on suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases has been published.
The ONS figures show there were 3,096 coronavirus-related care home deaths in England and Wales up to April 17.
This is almost triple last week's figures - which recorded 1,043 deaths in care homes.
The ONS looks at registered deaths, i.e death certificates which include a mention of Covid-19, so there is a lag in the data.
In contrast, the CQC looks at death notifications, i.e care homes telling the regulator in England they have had a death linked to coronavirus.
Combined, more than 6,500 deaths involving coronavirus have occurred in England and Wales outside of hospital, the official figures show.
There were 22,351 deaths in England and Wales in the week ending April 17 - 11,854 more than the five-year average.
The number of deaths which mentioned Covid-19 over the seven days was 8,758 - 39.2% of all deaths - almost four in 10 deaths.
And of the deaths involving Covid-19, just over three-quarters (77.4%) took place in hospital with the remainder occurring in care homes, private homes and hospices.
Up to April 17, the ONS said there were 4,316 coronavirus-related deaths occurring outside of hospital in England and Wales.
– 3,096 took place in care homes
– 883 in private homes
– 190 in hospices
– 61 in other communal establishments, and
– 86 elsewhere
The equivalent figure for hospital deaths over this period is 14,796.
Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group (ICG), said those in care and nursing homes who have died “deserve better”.
He said: “Due to the lag in collating these figures, we do fear that the true number of people who have died in care and nursing homes since the start of coronavirus may be higher than these figures suggest. It may well be that they are increasing whilst hospital deaths are falling.
“We hope not, but it might be that the numbers will actually be higher.
“Social care providers are now on the true front line in the fight against Covid-19 and we need more support.”
Chairman of the National Care Association, Nadra Ahmed, told ITV News more widespread testing should have been carried out in care homes earlier in the coronavirus outbreak.
She said: "We should have had this testing at the very beginning, the commitment to social care needed to come much earlier".
She added: "In the planning stages we needed to be absolutely clear on what was going to happen to the care sector, who are looking after the most vulnerable people in our societies.
"I feel that that has set it off on a really bad foundation and that's why we are now trying to play catch up and actually the responsibility needs to be ramped up."
"We shouldn't be overwhelmed on websites to go on to, the testing should be there for anybody and everybody that works in a care setting."
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