The move comes after researchers criticised “statistical flaws” in the way the deaths are reported across England, saying they are left looking far worse than any other part of the UK. PHE’s figures feed into the daily death statistics published by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Data from Public Health Wales, Health Protection Scotland and the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency is also fed in.
According to a note on the Government’s website, the review means it is “pausing” the publication of the daily death figure “while this is resolved”.
The daily DHSC data represents the number of reported deaths of people who have tested positive for Covid-19, who have died in all settings.
But in a blog entitled “Why no-one can ever recover from Covid-19 in England – a statistical anomaly”, Professors Yoon Loke, from the University of East Anglia, and Carl Heneghan, from the University of Oxford, said more robust data is needed.
Matt Hancock has ordered an urgent review into the way the daily coronavirus death toll
They argued that PHE looks at whether a person has ever tested positive and whether they are still alive at a later date.
This means anyone who has ever tested positive for COVID-19 and then dies is included in the death figures, even if they have died from something else.
The report said: “PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the Covid test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community.
“Anyone who has tested Covid positive but subsequently died at a later date of any cause will be included on the PHE Covid death figures.
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12.57pm update: Coronavirus ‘game-changing’ antibodies test unveiled
Millions of free coronavirus antibody tests could soon be distributed around the UK after a version backed by the British Government passed its first major trials.
The fingerprick tests, which can tell within 20 minutes if a person has ever been exposed to the coronavirus, were found to be 98.6 percent accurate in secret human trials held in June.
Ministers are hoping that the AbC-19 lateral flow test will be available for use in a mass screening programme before the end of the year.
The test was previously hailed as a “game changer” by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
12.21pm update: Transport Secretary to go abroad
Grant Shapps has become the first senior politician to break ranks and declare he is taking a summer holiday abroad this year.
The Transport Secretary said he and his wife Belinda had decided to take advantage of the relaxation of Foreign Office guidance on non-essential overseas travel.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “My wife looked at all of these new changes that were made and has now booked a break for the first time for a couple of years.”
11.06am update: EU President’s last ditch attempt to break deadlock
European Council President Charles Michel offered a revised plan for the EU’s proposed economic recovery fund on Saturday to break a deadlock between the bloc’s 27 leaders on the second day of a summit in Brussels, according to a document, diplomats and officials.
To assuage concerns by the northern camp of thrifty EU countries led by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the share of free grants in the proposed €⟩750 billion recovery fund would be reduced to €⟩450 billion from €500 billion.
This, along with plans for an ’emergency brake’ on disbursement of funds, would appease wealthy northern states who want conditions attached to grants and would prefer to see those countries worst affected by the coronavirus crisis take loans.
The proposal would also increase rebates on the core EU budget for Austria, Denmark and Sweden.
10.45am update: UN sends warning to hackers
The head of the United Nations has condemned any attempt by countries to steal details of coronavirus vaccine research from their rivals.
Secretary-general Antonio Guterres said it was “very important” that the intellectual property rights of scientists seeking to develop a vaccine were protected.
At the same time he stressed it was essential that if a successful vaccine was produced, it was made available to “everybody, everywhere” around the world.
His warning came after Britain, the United States and Canada accused hackers linked to Russian intelligence of targeting vaccine researchers- including those in the UK – in an attempt to steal details of their work.
Moscow has strongly denied the allegations.
10.26am update: Philippines’ confirms death toll
The Philippines’ health ministry on Saturday reported 113 more new coronavirus deaths and 2,357 additional infections.
In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths have increased to 1,773 while confirmed cases have reached 65,304, with the capital and Cebu City in central Philippines accounting for the bulk of the infections as the virus spreads.
The Philippines on Sunday confirmed 162 novel coronavirus deaths, Southeast Asia’s biggest daily rise in COVID-19 deaths.
9.30am update: EU deadlock over coronavirus recovery fund
EU tensions have already erupted at the Brussels summit this weekend after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte hit back at Emmanuel Macron’s demands for his country to pay “off the charts” into Europe.
European Union leaders gathered in Brussels on Friday as they began discussions on the unprecedented €750 billion recovery fund for economies hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mark Rutte issued a brusing rebuke to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron as he spoke to reporters on his way into the summit. The Dutch Prime Minister slapped down France’s demands that the Netherlands give up its rebate demands and continue to pay “off the charts” into Brussels’ coffers.
9.04am update: Russia’s death toll
Russia has reported 6,234 new coronavirus cases and 124 deaths in the past 24 hours.
8.48am update: 25 million infected in Iran
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said 25 million Iranians have been infected with the coronavirus and that another 35 million are at risk of acquiring it.
The figures, which Mr Rouhani said were based on a new Health Ministry report, are far higher Iran’s official toll of 269,440 infected.
Iran, with a population of more than 80 million, has been the Middle East country hardest hit by the epidemic.
He said: “Our estimate is that as of now 25 million Iranians have been infected with this virus and about 14,000 have lost their dear lives.
“There is the possibility that between 30 and 35 million other people will be at risk.
“In total, more than 200,000 people have been hospitalised.”
8.29am update: Capacity to go back to work
Grant Shapps said there is capacity on public transport for more people to use it to go back to work.
He added: “We are quite close to full capacity but the usage of public transport is way down.
“We have been very careful to ask people not to flood back too quickly and they have not, and so we are seeing many cases of quite empty, for example, trains.
“There’s more capacity there, you can now return. Anyone, not just key workers, can use public transport.
“I would recommend trying to avoid the busier times of day, but as people return to work – and the Prime Minister asked employers and employees to look at doing that particularly from August 1 – the public transport is there.”
The transport secretary said social distancing rules are still in force on public transport.
8.17am update: Return to normal is ‘long way off’
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), has said a return to pre-lockdown normality is “a long way off”.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “Unfortunately I think it is quite a long way away.
“If what you mean by normality is what we used to do until February and the middle of March this year – go to work normally, travel on the buses and trains, go on holiday without restrictions, meet friends, shake hands, hug each other and so on – that’s a long way off, unfortunately.
“We won’t be able to do that until we are immune to the virus, which means until we have a vaccine that is proven safe and effective.
“If we return to those sort of normal behaviours the virus will come back very fast.”
8.08am update: Possible to return to normal by Christmas
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it is possible for the country to return to normality by Christmas.
He told BBC Breakfast the Prime Minister’s announcement was about giving people a “sense of direction”.
He added: “It’s giving people a road map, really, so we can give people some hope whilst planning for the worst as well.
“We want to give people some sense of direction, because a lot of people are running businesses or rely on the Christmas period and need to know that if everything goes well that this is our intention.
“But you can’t get away from the fact that the virus is still, in many ways, a bit of an unknown, and of course it depends how millions of people respond and how good and alert we are in terms of all the things we know, like washing your hands and for the time being keeping that distance of one metre plus.”
7.55am update: Lockdown approach ‘less effective’ in BAME communities
Lockdown measures imposed in late March to slow down the spread of coronavirus may not have been as effective in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities because of the “one-size-fits-all approach”, scientists have warned.
Academics at the University of Leicester found that COVID-19 cases continued to rise in BAME groups in certain parts of Leicester in the three weeks after the announcement was made, while rates in white groups “dropped off very sharply”.
They said the findings, published recently in the journal EClinicalMedicine by The Lancet, raise “serious questions” on whether lockdown on its own is effective for a diverse population.
Dr Manish Pareek, an associate clinical professor in infectious diseases at the University of Leicester, said: “Obviously, lockdown has had a huge impact in reducing infection rates but the question is, is it enough for certain parts of the country?
“Lockdown as a whole is quite a blunt tool… perhaps what we should be thinking about is a more nuanced approach which allows people to work with local solutions.”
7.23am update: Global death toll figures
More than 14.08 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and 595,459 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
7.15am update: Australia’s parliament suspended
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday delayed the opening of parliament for several weeks as the new coronavirus continued spreading through the country’s two most populous states.
Mr Morrison asked the speaker of the parliament to cancel a two-week session due to start on August 4, over concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. The request was seen as a formality as the speaker is a member of Morrison’s Liberal Party and the opposition Labor Party accepted the call.
MPs are to meet at the next planned session on August 24.