Care home resident deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales have fallen by more than three quarters in a month, figures show.
There were 2,175 care home resident deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate registered in the week ending February 5, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The latest weekly figures show 467 care home resident deaths involving Covid-19 were registered in the week to March 5 – down 78.5% in four weeks.
The figures cover deaths of care home residents in all settings, not just in care homes.
The ONS data also shows that the overall number of deaths of care home residents have been below the average for this time of year for three weeks in a row.
There were 2,531 deaths of care home residents registered in the week ending March 5, 15.7% fewer deaths than the 3,005 deaths registered on average for this week between 2015 and 2019.
A total of 41,458 care home residents in England and Wales have now had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate since the pandemic began.
Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said: “It will be very welcome news for older people living in care that the tools to manage the virus are having an impact and mortality rates are falling.
“Care homes must now use those tools – such as testing and personal protective equipment – to safely welcome back visitors, to ensure the Prime Minister’s promise of reuniting families becomes a reality for all.
“Otherwise the other threat facing older people in care will continue to cause harm – the threat of loneliness and isolation.”
Care groups welcomed the falling deaths but expressed concern about the ability to protect staff and residents if key Government funding is not extended beyond March.
The funds include the infection control fund and the adult social care rapid testing fund.
The National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit care providers, said it is not the time to relax measures, adding: “It is with huge trepidation that providers watch the calendar count down to the end of March 2021.”
Chief executive Vic Rayner said: “With less than two weeks to go, it seems inconceivable that the Government has not responded to calls to confirm this funding and provide the assurance that providers and the wider community need to continue to provide the safest possible care in a Covid-19 environment.”
The Independent Care Group (ICG), which represents providers in York and North Yorkshire, called the falling death rates “excellent news” but said the Government must not turn its back on the care sector.
ICG chairman Mike Padgham said: “The pandemic hasn’t gone away and is still claiming the lives of loved ones.
“Many key elements of Government financial support for care settings against Covid-19 stop at the end of March but the reality is, coronavirus won’t stop then.
“If social care providers are to keep protecting their clients, staff and the wider community, we will continue to need that support and the Government must extend it.”
The ONS figures also show that deaths involving Covid-19 in the over-80s have fallen dramatically, with a fall of 86% since the second-wave peak.
A total of 743 Covid-19 deaths in the 80-and-over age group occurred in England and Wales in the week ending March 5, down from 5,339 deaths in the week ending January 22.
Deaths for those aged 75-79 also dropped 86% in the same period, compared with falls of 85% for those aged 70-74, 75% for those aged 65-69 and 72% for those aged 60-64.
People aged 80 and over were the second group on the priority list for Covid-19 vaccines, with doses being offered from early December.
In the latest week ending March 5, 2,105 deaths registered in England and Wales mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate – the lowest number since the week ending November 6.
The figure is down 28% on the previous week’s total.
Nearly one in five (18.2%) of all deaths registered in England and Wales that week mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.
All regions of England recorded a week-on-week fall in the number of Covid-19 deaths registered.
South-east England saw the highest number of Covid-19 deaths registered: 328, down 32% from 481 in the previous week.