More people died with Covid in care homes in England and Wales in the second wave of the pandemic than the first, according to official figures.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that, while the rise in coronavirus deaths among care home residents was much sharper during the first wave between March and September 2020, the number and proportion of Covid deaths was higher in the second wave from September to April 2021.

However, the ONS notes that, because of subsequent enhanced testing and increased medical knowledge, there may have been other Covid deaths in the first wave caused by undiagnosed cases of the virus.

There were 20,664 care home deaths (23.1%) in wave 1 – from mid-March to mid-September 2020 – that mentioned Covid on the death certificate. This compared with 21,677 deaths (25.7%) between then and the start of April.

The release covered deaths that occurred in a care home as well as deaths where the person lived in a care home but died elsewhere.

However, Dr Jason Oke, senior statistician at the Nuffield department of primary care health sciences, University of Oxford, noted that at least some of these deaths would have been caused by coronavirus but not diagnosed as such. “We have to put this into context with the excess deaths which paints a very different picture. To quote directly from the ONS report: ‘By contrast, there were more total deaths of care home residents above the five-year average in wave 1 (27,079 excess deaths) than in wave 2 (1,335 excess deaths).’”

However, not all such deaths would be because of Covid. Others cited by the ONS included delayed access to healthcare, known as “mortality displacement”.

Prof Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said: “Those issues will make it difficult to understand the patterns in the data when we eventually come to an inquiry about the pandemic.”

Separate figures, also released by the ONS on 11 May, showed there were 205 Covid deaths in England and Wales in the week to 30 April, accounting for 2.1% of all deaths, a decrease of 55 deaths compared with the previous week.

This brings the total UK Covid death toll to 151,480, according to the ONS, which counts all fatalities that mention Covid on the death certificate, higher than the more commonly cited government figure that counts those occurring within 28 days of a positive test.

This content first appear on the guardian

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