Coronavirus-related deaths in England and Wales over a seven-day period have fallen by more than a third in the space of a week, new figures show.
There were 3,930 deaths registered in the week up to May 8 mentioning “novel coronavirus”, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
These accounted for 31.1% of all deaths during those seven days.
The latest weekly figures represent a drop of 2,105 deaths (34.8%) from the previous week, when there were 6,035 deaths registered.
The ONS said the early May bank holiday had affected the number of registrations of deaths from all causes, with 88 deaths registered on May 8 compared with 2,950 the previous Friday.
Nick Stripe, head of health analysis at the ONS, said that death registrations for the week ending May 8 were about 20% lower than if there had been no bank holiday.
He told the BBC: “So, bearing that caveat in mind, there were 12,657 deaths registered across England and Wales, which is just over 5,000 lower than the week before.
“Still 3,000 above the five-year average, but remember that caveat, so we’ve probably been above about 15,000 if it wasn’t for VE day bank holiday.”
Weekly coronavirus-related deaths in care homes also fell to 1,666 in the week ending May 8.
When you add those all together we’re probably around about 15,000 Covid-related deaths of care home residents in totalNick Stripe, head of health analysis at the ONS
This is the second weekly fall in a row, down from 2,423 deaths in the previous seven days – a decrease of 31%.
But the proportion of coronavirus deaths taking place in care homes rose, with care home deaths accounting for 42.4% of coronavirus-related fatalities registered in England and Wales in the week ending May 8.
This is up from 40% the previous week.
The proportion of hospital Covid-19 deaths continued to decrease, making up 50.5% of the coronavirus-related deaths in the week ending May 8.
The ONS said there were a total of 9,980 coronavirus-related care home deaths registered up to May 8 in England and Wales.
The figures cover those who have died in care homes where Covid-19 is mentioned anywhere on a death certificate, including in combination with other health conditions.
Mr Stripe said around 15,000 deaths of care home residents have taken place up to May 15 across England and Wales.
This is based on the ONS data up to May 8, separate ONS analysis which shows deaths of residents in hospitals up to May 1, and death notifications from providers to the Care Quality Commission and Care Inspectorate Wales up to May 15.
There were 1,369 death notifications made to the CQC in the week ending May 15, and around 3,500 Covid-19-linked deaths of care home residents in hospitals, up to May 1.
He said: “So when you add those all together we’re probably around about 15,000 Covid-related deaths of care home residents in total.
“Most of them in care home settings, but a significant chunk have happened in hospital.”
Tuesday’s ONS release brings the UK-wide total number of coronavirus-related deaths to just over 44,000, according to analysis from the PA news agency.
The figures also show that 121,002 deaths were registered in England and Wales between March 21 and May 8 2020.
This was 49,575 more deaths than the average for this period in the previous five years.
Covid-19 was responsible for 37,187 (75%) of these excess deaths.
The ONS said it is continuing to investigate the number of non-Covid-19-related deaths and will publish detailed analysis on this in the future.
The Health Foundation said the figures suggest that “action has come too late to stem the avoidable loss of life for care home residents, and social care staff”.
Chief executive Dr Jennifer Dixon said: “While no action plan could undo decades of political neglect, questions should be asked as to how many deaths could have been prevented had action been taken earlier.”
Sam Monaghan, chief executive of Methodist Homes, which runs 222 care homes and schemes, said there is a “stark disconnect” between Government rhetoric on support for care homes and the reality.
He said: “Our fear since last week has been that with the easing of restrictions we will see numbers of people infected in the general population increase with a knock-on effect to the vulnerability of those in the care sector.”
A Department of Health and Social Care Spokeswoman said: “Every death from this virus is a tragedy and our deepest sympathies go out to the families who have sadly lost relatives.
“Supporting the social care sector throughout this pandemic is a priority. We are working around the clock to give the social care sector the equipment and support they need.
“We are ensuring millions of items of PPE are available to care workers, using our increased testing capacity to test care home residents and staff regardless of symptoms and introducing our new £600 million Infection Control Fund to help prevent the spread in care homes.”