UK COVID-19 death toll hits 53,077 - Reuters tally

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Spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Westminster Cathedral in London

LONDON (Reuters) - The United Kingdom's COVID-19 death toll has hit 53,077, according to a Reuters tally of official data sources that underline the country's status as one of the worst hit in the world.

The Reuters tally comprises fatalities where COVID-19 was mentioned on death certificates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland up to June 5, and up to June 7 in Scotland. It also includes more recent hospital deaths.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which updates the figures on a weekly basis, said on Tuesday the number of deaths involving COVID-19 in England and Wales up to June 5 rose to 47,820.

The large death toll has prompted criticism of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's handling of the pandemic, with opposition parties and some scientists saying Britain was too slow to impose a lockdown or protect the elderly in care homes.

The number issued daily by the government, which measures deaths where patients had tested positive for coronavirus, stood at 41,969 as of 1600 GMT on June 15, up 233 on the day. [nS8N2CC093]

Epidemiologists say excess mortality - deaths from all causes that exceed the five-year average for the time of year - is the best way of gauging deaths from a disease outbreak because it is internationally comparable.

While these figures take longer to compile, Britain appears to be faring badly here too.

About 64,500 more people than usual have died in the United Kingdom during this year's pandemic, according to the latest available data, said Nick Stripe, head of health analysis at the ONS.

(Reporting by Kate Holton, Andy Bruce and William James; editing by William Schomberg)