The official death toll from coronavirus in the UK was lowered by over 5,000 today after the government adopted a new way of counting fatalities.
Concerns had been raised that the old method overstated the number of deaths, as it counted every death after someone had been diagnosed with coronavirus with no cut-off point.
From now on, authorities will publish the number of deaths that occurred within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test result on a daily basis, the Department of Health and Social Care 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,” said John Newton, director of heath improvement at Public Health England.
“Our analysis of the long-term impact of the infection now allows us to move to new methods.”
Under the new method, the UK coronavirus death toll is 41,329, rather than the 46,706 recorded under the old system.
The toll is still the highest in Europe, ahead of Italy which is second on about 35,000 deaths.
While England accounts for 85 per cent of the UK population, the new methodology will be adopted across all four UK nations.
Epidemiologists say excess mortality — deaths from all causes that exceed the five-year average for the time of year — is the best way of gauging coronavirus-related deaths because it is internationally comparable.
The UK had the highest excess death toll during the coronavirus pandemic in comparison to 21 other European countries, analysis showed last month, with around 65,000 more people than usual dying.
In England a new weekly set of figures will also be published, including deaths that occur within 60 days and deaths that mention Covid-19 on the death certificate.