West Midlands emerges as a hotspot for coronavirus deaths

Rowena Mason, Nazia Parveen and Caelainn Barr
Photograph: Edward Moss/Alamy

The West Midlands has seen another sharp rise in the number of coronavirus-related deaths after emerging as a hotspot for transmissions of the virus earlier this week.

Of the 115 new deaths reported across the UK in the latest update, 40 were recorded in the West Midlands. That took the total number of deaths across the Midlands to 112.

Eighteen people who died were being treated by the Royal Wolverhampton NHS trust, which has recorded the highest death toll from the virus for any trust in the UK for the second time.

There have been 17 deaths in Sandwell and West Birmingham hospitals NHS trust, 16 in University Hospitals Birmingham NHS foundation trust and 11 in the Dudley Group NHS foundation trust so far.

Earlier this week the government said it was investigating the reasons behind a hotspot emerging in the region. Anecdotal evidence suggested people’s religious convictions and fears of social isolation could be leading to a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus transmissions in the area.

In an interview with the Guardian, the Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood said older Muslim and Sikh people in the area were struggling to adhere to government guidelines about physical distancing because of their religious convictions.

Despite most religious services being cancelled, some older people were allegedly continuing to attend mosques and gurdwaras to pray, Mahmood said. Another theory suggested panic buying in supermarkets, with people queueing next to each other for hours to pay for their goods, could be contributing to the large cluster.

Related: Who is dying from coronavirus and in which NHS trusts?

While NHS England reported 107 new deaths across 30 trusts on Thursday, some of those deaths had reportedly occurred as early as 16 March. The youngest of the new patients was 32 and had an underlying health condition.

The figures emerged amid continuing confusion over the number of virus-related deaths after NHS England changed how the data was reported and it emerged that people dying at home of suspected cases were not included.

NHS England said it was shifting the time period for the daily reporting of deaths because hospitals under pressure were struggling to gather the data in time.

It revealed that 107 people died from coronavirus in England, taking the UK-wide figure to 115 over a 24-hour period – the highest daily toll so far.

NHS England also belatedly revealed that the unexpectedly low figure of 28 deaths on Tuesday covered only a short period, from 9am to 5pm, dashing hopes that the UK’s curve was flattening.

In future, there will be a time lag of almost a day in reporting deaths, which will be published at 2pm and reflect mortality figures for the 24-hour period before 5pm the previous day.

The figures include age brackets showing the range of people who have died.

However, some prominent cases do not appear to be reflected in the figures, such as that of Kayla Williams, a 36-year-old mother from Peckham, who died just before paramedics arrived and was recorded by them as a possible Covid-19 case.

Chloe Middleton, the 21-year-old from Buckinghamshire whose family said on Wednesday she died after contracting coronavirus, also does not appear to be recorded in the figures.

An NHS England source said the likely cause of people missing from the statistics is that the daily figures only include those who tested positive in hospital.

The UK is only testing people for coronavirus in hospital, so people dying at home or in care homes with symptoms of the disease will be missing from the overall figures.

The number of omissions are likely to be low at the moment but could increase as the pandemic worsens in the coming weeks.


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A Public Health England spokesman said the overall figures published daily represented all those who had tested positive for coronavirus, and there was no systemic testing of those who had died with symptoms but no confirmed diagnosis.

Additional reporting by Pamela Duncan and Niamh McIntyre

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