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Covid-19 deaths will be counted if person had positive virus test in past month

The UK has changed the way it records the Covid-19 death toll, reducing the figure by 5,377 to 41,329. 

All four nations will now share an approach in which they only record deaths as being from Covid-19 if they occured within 28 days of the person’s positive lab-confirmed test result. 

Previously, those who had tested positive for Covid-19 at any period before death were counted among its official toll, but this methodology was criticised and went against that of other nations.

Following an urgent Public Health England (PHE) review ordered by health secretary Matt Hancock on 17 July, the UK’s four chief medical officers have recommended a single, consistent measure. The Government and devolved nations have agreed to publish this number of deaths on a daily basis.

Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, said: ‘The way we count deaths in people with Covid-19 in England was originally chosen to avoid underestimating deaths caused by the virus in the early stages of the pandemic.

‘Our analysis of the long-term impact of the infection now allows us to move to new methods, which will give us crucial information about both recent trends and overall mortality burden due to Covid-19.’

PHE’s review considered epidemiological evidence to see how likely it was that Covid-19 was a contributory factor to a death at different points in time after a positive test.

Analysis of data in England found that 96% of deaths occurred within 60 days of a positive test or had Covid-19 on the death certificate, while 88% of deaths occurred within 28 days of a test.

Although official Government counting will now use the 28-day cut off point, a new weekly set of figures in England will also be published showing the number of deaths that occur within 60 days of a positive test.

Deaths that occur after 60 days will also be added to this figure if Covid-19 appears on the death certificate, to provide an ‘additional measure of the impact of the disease over time’, said PHE.

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