July 18, 2020 / 11:19 AM / 17 days ago

UK pauses daily coronavirus death toll update over data concerns

FILE PHOTO: Nurses care for a patient in an Intensive Care ward treating victims of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, Britain, May 22, 2020. Steve Parsons/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Saturday it was pausing its daily update of the death toll from the coronavirus after the government ordered a review into the calculation of the data over concerns the toll might have been exaggerated.

Academics have said the way that Public Health England (PHE), the government agency responsible for managing infectious disease outbreaks, calculates the figures in England means they may be distorted compared to other parts of the United Kingdom.

“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,” a message on the government’s website said.

“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.”

Britain has been the European country worst hit by the virus, with an official death toll of more 45,000. But the government has said international comparisons are misleading because countries record coronavirus deaths differently.

Health Minister Matt Hancock on Friday ordered a review into the PHE’s reporting after the academics said patients who tested positive for coronavirus, but were successfully treated, would still be counted as dying from the virus “even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later”.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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