The grim statistics on Covid-19 infection and death rates issued by the government have always been partial. The daily announcement of hospital deaths has been a benchmark with which to track progress but it has never revealed the full picture. The Office of National Statistics has corrected that today by publishing a detailed breakdown on where the known deaths from Covid-19 have occurred.
In Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin, there were 96 deaths up to 17 April, of which 30 (31%) were outside hospitals. Nationally, the even sadder tally was 23,317 deaths for England and Wales, 25% not in hospitals, that includes 19% in care homes.
These numbers are at last giving us a more accurate picture of the pattern of mortality. We need to understand these bleak statistics so we can target where our stretched resources are directed.
Shropshire Council’s cabinet will face a record number of questions from councillors and the public tomorrow including on care homes. That is good news because the council’s scrutiny process has been suspended.
The Office of National Statistics has come to our rescue by providing gold standard statistics at a time when the government’s daily briefing has consistently underreported the progress of the disease and havoc wreaked to families and friends from so many deaths. That’s not entirely the government’s fault. Some of the media reporting the soundbites have not appreciated the complexities of gathering immediate mortality statistics which are not routinely reported day-to-day. But the problems with reporting needed to be resolved. From tomorrow, the government will be reporting daily deaths in care homes and community deaths alongside those in hospitals.
In Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin, up to 17 April, there had been 96 deaths – 21 deaths in care homes, seven at home and one in a hospice. The number of weekly deaths has increased from 10 in the week ending 23 March to 35 in the week ending 17 April. The trend has been upwards but it may be a couple of weeks before we can judge whether Covid-19 has peaked in Shropshire.
The Cabinet Meeting tomorrow (29 April) begins at 11am. It will be online (agenda and joining instructions). Cabinet members will face a record number of questions. Twelve from councillors and six from members of the public. That’s a healthy sign. Voters should ask questions of the council and challenge its leadership. Councillors are asking more questions than usual because the scrutiny process, which is essential to counterbalance the power of a cabinet, has been suspended. No future scrutiny meetings are yet planned.
The cabinet meeting will hear public questions on promoting cycling; removing traffic from town centres; increasing space for social distancing in town centres; Shropshire Council divesting fossil fuels from its pension fund; the priority the council is giving to the climate emergency; and support for care homes and carers.
That will be followed by opposition questions by Lib Dems and the Green Party on council support for the retail economy after lockdown ends; support for care homes including data on deaths; pressing ahead with the North West Relief Road despite Covid-19; the lack of progress on the local transport plan and highways improvement plan; the absence of any scrutiny process during the Covid-19 emergency; distribution of government grants to small businesses; and support for schools struggling during the emergency.