BRITAIN’S coronavirus death toll has soared past 40,000, figures suggest — with the victims including a rail worker who died after a commuter spat in her face, saying he had Covid-19.
The virus had already been linked to 38,355 fatalities by May 1, according to new statistics that include information from death certificates.
That is significantly higher than the official tally of 32,692 reported by the government yesterday. And taking into account the increase in the official toll since May 1, the probable overall total is now at least 40,297.
The grim figures emerged as police began investigating the death of Belly Mujinga, a ticket checker at Victoria station in London.
The mum-of-one was working on the concourse when the man approached her and a colleague before spitting and coughing over them.
Both the workers fell ill days later and Mrs Mujinga, 47, died in hospital last month, it has emerged.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said last night: ‘It is despicable for a key worker to be attacked in this way while serving the travelling public. Our thoughts are with Mrs Mujinga’s family at this terrible time.’
Mrs Mujinga’s widower Lusamba Gode Katalay said that she had cared for everybody and was ‘a good wife’ as well as ‘a good mother’ to their 11-year-old daughter Ingrid.
The official virus death toll of 32,692 was up 627 in 24 hours. But it included only the cases that have been confirmed by a test.
However, many people have died without a test in care homes where an outbreak had already been confirmed.
The higher total, revealed yesterday, included a figure from the Office for National Statistics of 35,044 deaths in England and Wales by May 1, where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.
With equivalent data for Scotland and Northern Ireland factored in, the tally is a third higher than the official toll at the beginning of the month.
The ONS figures show a slight dip in care-home deaths in the seven days to May 1 but they accounted for about 40 per cent of the virus-related fatalities.
David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warned that some of these deaths ‘may not have occurred if people had got to hospital’.
‘How many is unclear,’ he added. ‘This issue needs urgent attention, and steps taken to ensure those who would benefit from hospital treatment and care for other conditions can get it.’
Christina McAnea, assistant general secretary of trade union Unison, said: ‘There’s clearly no major slowdown in the devastation being experienced in care homes, causing heartache for so many families. It’s not just the lives of vulnerable residents that are being lost, but care workers too.
‘The government must put in place an effective system of testing, tracking and tracing.’
Care minister Helen Whately said: ‘We continue to work night and day to give social care providers the best possible support and ensure they have the protection they need as quickly as possible.
‘It is a relief to see the number of deaths in care homes falling, but sadly they continue to make up a significant proportion of coronavirus-related deaths and our work is not done.’
Meanwhile, a study in The Lancet warns that lifting the lockdown too early could lead to 73,000 extra virus deaths over the course of the year.
University College London experts looked at data from 3.8million health records. They based their conclusions on England having an infection rate of ten per cent, and 20 per cent of people having a high-risk condition.
Lead author Dr Amitava Banerjee said: ‘Our findings show the mortality risk for these vulnerable groups increases significantly.’
Despite the concerns, the government stepped up its demands for people to go back to work if possible as a gradual easing of lockdown rules begins today. Business secretary Alok Sharma said: ‘Those who cannot work from home should now speak to their employer about going back to work.’
The number of virus tests carried out daily fell back again to 85,293 after the government’s 100,000 target had been met for the first time in nine days.
Britain has Europe’s highest official death toll but reporting rules vary between countries.