Coronavirus accounted for nearly 40 per cent of all deaths in the week up to April 17 in England and Wales, the ONS data shows, up from 33 per cent the previous week.

The figures reveal that more than 6,500 deaths involving coronavirus have occurred outside of hospitals  those classed as “in the community” by the ONS. 

Of these, only 1,220 were outside care homes, with 883 taking place in private homes and 190 in hospices.

Last week the World Health Organization estimated that up to half of all deaths from Covid-19 in Europe were taking place within care homes, warning of “an unimaginable” human tragedy.

Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University and a practising GP, said: “We should shift our resources from Nightingale hospitals to nursing homes.

“Currently there are no patients in some of these hospitals. We need to put the same activity into nursing homes. Then you’d be able to start to protect the people who don’t have active infection.”

Professor Heneghan said care homes were currently caught in a “perfect storm” brought about by their dense populations and a lack of good infection control, due in part to inadequate personal protective equipment.

In London, over half of deaths registered in the week up to April 17 involved Covid-19.

The North West and North East also had a high proportion of Covid-19-related deaths, accounting for 42.3 and 41.1 per cent of registered deaths respectively.

Of deaths involving Covid-19 registered up to week 16, 77.4 per cent  14,796 deaths  occurred in hospital with the remainder occurring in care homes, private homes and hospices.

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