The British government on Wednesday changed the way it compiles COVID-19 deaths, a move that reduced the country’s official death toll by more than 5,000.
The Department of Health said the new total is 41,329, down from 46,706. That is a more than 10 percent drop and still Europe’s highest death toll.
The government announced last month that it was reviewing the way death statistics were compiled after academics pointed out that the tally included anyone who had tested positive for COVID-19 and later died, with no cut-off point between positive test and death.
That means some people recorded as COVID-19 deaths may have died of other causes.
That could explain why England has been recording far higher death tolls than Scotland, which only counts deaths that occur within 28 days of a positive test.
Public Health England said Wednesday that it will also adopt a 28-day cut-off date, bringing it into line with the rest of the U.K.
People who die more than 28 days after testing positive will be added to the total only if COVID-19 appears on their death certificate.
Public Health England said it made the change after discovering that “in recent weeks the numbers of deaths in people who have tested positive have become substantially greater than the numbers of deaths subsequently registered as COVID-19 deaths” by the Office for National Statistics, which uses death certificates to keep its tally.
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