Deaths in Cornwall surged above usual levels in April as the coronavirus crisis took hold, official figures show.

The British Medical Association says the “true devastation wrought by Covid-19” is starting to become clear, after official statistics showed the number of deaths from all causes doubled last month across England and Wales. 

Office for National Statistics figures show 745 deaths were recorded in Cornwall overall during April.

That was 215 more than the 530 recorded in April 2019 –  a rise of 41 per cent.

The figure refers to all deaths, by any cause, not just those that were coronavirus-related. 

This was far lower than the average rise across the south west's 30 local authorities however, where death counts increased by 67 per cent.

Ministers and health experts leading the public response to the coronavirus crisis have consistently said excess mortality figures will be the most accurate measure of the overall impact.

Across England and Wales, the April death toll rose by more than 44,000 in April, climbing from 44,123 in 2019 to 88,153 this year.

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Separate data from the ONS shows there had been 35,597 deaths in England and Wales where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate as of May 1.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA council, said the figures showed the “widespread and tragic” impact the crisis is having on the population, which is extending far beyond the direct effects of the virus.

She said: “The response of the health service to adapt to the Covid crisis has been nothing short of remarkable, but because the NHS was severely overstretched prior to the pandemic, this could only be achieved by diverting resources away from other areas of care.

“As such, many non-Covid patients have been unable to access treatments or have been deterred from attending hospital or contacting their GP practice.

“Consequently, as many ill patients are not getting the care they so desperately need, their conditions are worsening, with some maybe even dying as a result.”

She added that the NHS must have the resources it needs to cope with an expected increase in demand for routine care in the coming months.

The Local Government Association says councils have stepped up to cope with the surge in deaths and subsequent funerals, but echoed calls for funding to be provided for the long haul.

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA's community wellbeing board, said: “Every death from coronavirus, both directly and indirectly, is a tragedy.

"Councils have risen to the challenge of managing excess deaths, with additional temporary mortuary capacity they put in place proving sufficient to deal with the expected rise in the number of deaths, combined with excellent local partnership working with faith groups, funeral directors and others.

"Government needs to ensure that councils are properly funded, to make sure that provision is made for all those who die to be treated with dignity and respect.”