Almost half of the hospital deaths in England and Wales registered during the last week of 2020 involved coronavirus, new figures show.
There were 3,144 deaths registered in the week ending January 1 which mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Of the 4,956 deaths registered which occurred in hospitals, 47.7% involved coronavirus, up from 40.2% the previous week.
And deaths involving Covid-19 in care homes accounted for more than a quarter (27.6%) of all deaths in care homes registered during the seven-day period.
The ONS said that next week it will release a new dataset on the weekly deaths of care home residents.
The figures show the number of registered coronavirus deaths is up 8.0% (232 deaths) from the previous week, while the number of overall deaths fell.
Of the 10,069 deaths registered, 31.2% mentioned Covid-19 – the highest proportion of deaths involving the virus since the week ending May 1.
The ONS said the latest figures should be interpreted with caution as the period covered includes two bank holidays, meaning there is likely to have been a delay in some registrations.
A decrease between these weeks is usually observed because of the impact of the Christmas bank holidays.
Five regions of England recorded an increase in registered Covid-19 deaths in the week to January 1, the ONS said.
In the South East, 523 deaths were registered, up from 415 the previous week and the highest since the week to May 15.
London had 492 deaths, up from 299 and the highest since the week to May 1.
The North West had 359 deaths, up from 343; eastern England 325, up from 301; and the South West 158, up from 155.
The figures show that, up to the week ending January 1, 55,372 deaths occurred in hospital, 20,661 in care homes, 3,942 in private homes, 1,100 in hospices, 315 in other communal establishments and 279 elsewhere.
According to Care Quality Commission records, 824 deaths in care homes were notified to the regulator in the week up to January 8.
This is up 24.6% from the previous week, when 661 deaths were notified, and up 55.4% from the 530 deaths notified in the week before that.
Nuffield Trust deputy director of research Sarah Scobie said numbers of Covid-19 deaths will continue to grow “for some time”.
It is very concerning to see within this latest set of data that the number of Covid deaths in care homes are risingSarah Scobie, Nuffield Trust
She added: “The majority of these deaths are taking place in hospitals (68%), but it is very concerning to see within this latest set of data that the number of Covid deaths in care homes are rising.
“This rise, coupled with an increase in the number of outbreaks of Covid in care homes, paints a worrying picture.
“Nobody wants to see a repeat of the first wave where the virus spread through care homes at pace. The vaccination of these most vulnerable people is now under way, but due to the time lag in gaining immunity and collecting this data, we will not see this impact for a few weeks yet.”
There have now been 98,379 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
A total of 93,030 have been registered where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, according to the latest reports from the UK’s statistics agencies.
This includes 84,449 in England and Wales up to January 1, which were confirmed by the ONS on Tuesday.
Since these statistics were compiled, a further 4,869 deaths have occurred in England, plus 117 in Scotland, 245 in Wales and 118 in Northern Ireland, according to additional data published on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.
The number of excess deaths that have occurred in the UK since the start of the coronavirus pandemic has now passed 88,000.
There were 79,739 excess deaths in England and Wales registered between March 7 2020 and January 1 2021, according to figures published by the ONS on Tuesday.
Adding in latest figures from the National Records of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency, this takes the UK total to 88,369 excess deaths.
More than half of the excess deaths in England and Wales took place in private homes.
There were 40,114 excess deaths in homes in England and Wales registered between March 7 2020 and January 1 2021, according to the ONS.
Of this total, 3,881 – 10% – were deaths involving Covid-19.
Any death involving Covid-19 is counted as an excess death because Covid-19 did not exist before 2020.
The end of life charity Marie Curie said a “silent crisis has been raging behind closed doors”, as families care alone for a dying loved one at home.
Chief executive Matthew Reed said: “While we must do all we can to protect the NHS and help it through this third wave of Covid-19, we must also reflect on what we can learn today about the people who have died prematurely in 2020 from other causes, and those who died at home – many more people died at home in 2020 but we did not see significantly increased resources to support those people.”