Publication of UK daily coronavirus death figures put on 'pause' as Matt Hancock calls for review into PHE data

A support worker stands in a corridor as the first patients are admitted to the NHS Seacole Centre at Headley Court, Surrey
As of 9am on 17 July, 293,239 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK. Credit: PA

The UK government is to stop publishing daily coronavirus deaths after health secretary Matt Hancock ordered an urgent review into how Public Health England (PHE) calculates the figures.

The health secretary called for a review after researchers claimed the way Covid-19 deaths are reported across England has led to an "over-exaggeration" of the figures due to "statistical flaws".

PHE's calculation of the figures means England’s deaths from coronavirus appear far higher than any other part of the UK, experts behind the study said.

On the coronavirus statistics page on Saturday, a statement said the government would be pausing the UK-wide updates until issue was "resolved".

Matt Hancock

The statement on the government's website read: "The Secretary of State has today, 17 July, asked PHE to urgently review their estimation of daily death statistics.

"Currently the daily deaths measure counts all people who have tested positive for coronavirus and since died, with no cut-off between time of testing and date of death.

"There have been claims that the lack of cut-off may distort the current daily deaths number.

"We are therefore pausing the publication of the daily figure while this is resolved."

The Oxford vaccine is one of many in development Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

In a blog entitled “Why no-one can ever recover from Covid-19 in England – a statistical anomaly”, Professors Yoon Loke, from the University of East Anglia, and Carl Heneghan, from the University of Oxford, said more robust data is needed into how the data was collated.

They argue that PHE looks at whether a person has ever tested positive and whether they are still alive at a later date.

The five big changes to England's coronavirus restrictions

This means anyone who has ever tested positive for Covid-19 and then dies is included in the death figures, even if they have died from something else.

It comes as adjustments lockdown came into force in England on Saturday, with local authorities being given greater powers to impose restrictions to tackle flare ups of the virus.

ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks on the changes to England's lockdown:

Health authorities in the individuals nations have continued to publish the latest coronavirus deaths data.

On Saturday, NHS England reported a further 13 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in hospitals in England.

The latest figures brings the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals in the country to 29,173.

In Wales, no new Covid-19 deaths were reported on Saturday - the total death toll there remains at 1,546.

The death toll from the virus in Scotland remains at 2,491 , with no further deaths reported on Saturday.

Northern Ireland no longer updates its coronavirus data board over the weekend, Friday's figures place the total number of Covid-19 deaths there at 556.