New figures say more people have died from Coronavirus than initial reports suggested

New figures released today say that many more people have died from Coronavirus than the initial reports suggested.

The previous daily figures only included those who had died in hospitals, but the new data includes all deaths such as those in Care Homes and the wider community.

As a result, it's estimated the current death toll could be as much as 40% higher than has been reported.

Our Political Reporter, Gareth Owen, shares his thoughts on the latest statistics.

It's one of the horrible realities of this crisis; the only way we can get a clear idea of the spread of the virus and how long it might last, is by counting those it has killed.

The two o'clock announcement of the day's death figures have become a grim fixture of our news cycle. But we have known for some time that those headline rates were actually a big underestimate of the real death toll.

The Government's daily updates only include those who have died in hospitals. The many who pass away at home or in care homes are not included. That information is collated separately by the Office for National Statistics, but only after death certificates have been issued. That all takes up to two weeks.

So only today have we got the full picture of the terrible death toll in this country in the week running up to Easter. Across the UK, the death toll was 40% higher than was reported at the time.

The discrepancy in the Midlands was not as big, but was still significant. Rather than 967 Midlands deaths that week (as suggested by the daily Government updates), the reality was that 1,231 people died with Coronavirus in our region in the seven days to Good Friday. That's 21% more than we thought at the time. There is no regional breakdown of where those additional 264 people died, but if the national picture is any guide, the vast majority would have been in care homes.

The ONS statistics are devastating for London, but they are particularly stark for the West Midlands which remains the worst affected region outside the capital. In normal times, we could expect to mourn just over a thousand deaths in the West Midlands each week.

But in the week leading to Easter, the total death figure was 2,182. To put it another way, 37% of all deaths in the West Midlands that week involved Covid-19.

And then, there is an unknown number who quite probably died with Coronavirus, but will never be counted in the official figures, because they were never tested. Amanda Edis from Kidderminster is convinced that her grandfather Terry died after catching it. But he was never diagnosed with Covid-19.

She told us; "People who are passing away in their families aren't getting the acknowledgement that they people have had covid. It was very highly suspected that they had Covid but they're not getting the acknowledgement in these daily statistics."

But while the number might be disputed and subject to change, at the least the trend in the Midlands now seems to be in the right direction.

After three weeks of rapidly increasing hospital death, the grim daily tallies seem to be levelling off. The hundreds of daily tragedies in our region will continue for some time yet, but the rate is gradually slowing.