The number of care home deaths in England and Wales of residents infected with Covid-19 has tripled in a week, according to official figures released this morning.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) report that 3,096 deaths took place in care homes in the week up to April, up from 1,043 the week before.

The ONS numbers are based on where Covid-19 is mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, including in combination with other health conditions.

The ONS also says 4,343 deaths in care homes involving coronavirus were reported by care home providers in England to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in the fortnight up to 24 April.

But Nick Stripe, head of the health analysis and life events division at the ONS, told the BBC that the total number of coronavirus deaths in care homes in England was probably now at least 5,500 – which is higher than the official most recent ONS figure, if more recent data from the CQC is taken into account.

“If you take that data, we can see the [CQC] has figures for England of 4,343 deaths in care homes between 10 and 24 April, so much more current, that’s last Friday. And we know that we had 1,000 deaths registered in care homes prior to 10 April.

“So in total we are looking at around at least 5,500 deaths in care homes in England related to Covid by 24 April.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said the numbers “were not a surprise” and called for “radical reform” of the care home sector.

“We need to stop thinking they are part of a different system, a different world. That means doing everything locally and nationally to support this critical part of our health and care sector with the right PPE, training and support in infection control as well as adequate funding," he said.

“Radical reform is needed so care homes are not second-class citizens but working hand in hand with the NHS. The social care action plan for England announced earlier this month was welcome but more needs to be done.”