THE number of people who have died from coronavirus in care homes in the region has almost reached 1,000 in just five weeks.

New figures have revealed more than half of deaths reported in care homes in the North-East and North Yorkshire were coronavirus-related.

The Northern Echo has analysed data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which shows care homes in County Durham have seen the highest deaths.

The figures, which shows the scale of the outbreak in care homes, are based on deaths that have been registered between April 10 and May 15.

It comes as this week, the Government said there are "big lessons" to be learned from how care homes were treated during the initial outbreak of the virus.

The Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the Government had now taken "significant steps" to improve the ongoing care home crisis.

But in the North-East and North Yorkshire, ONS data shows the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been notified of 983 Covid-19 related care home deaths.

Over the same reporting period, a total of 1,965 deaths were recorded in care homes across the region.

Number of Covid-19 related care home deaths recorded by each local authority as of latest figures published:

- County Durham 212

- Darlington 46

- Gateshead 68

- Hartlepool 34

- Newcastle 67

- Middlesbrough 52

- Stockton 25

- Redcar and Cleveland 24

- Northumberland 77

- North Tyneside 41

- South Tyneside 57

- Sunderland 80

- North Yorkshire 150

- York 50

Total: 983

How is a Covid-19 death is recorded?

A Covid-19 death is recorded if either the individual tested positive for the virus, or had been showing symptoms of the virus at time of death.

In cases where a care home resident has not been tested, those who were said to be displaying symptoms will be recorded as a Covid-19 death.

The ONS, which has released the data, says all Covid-19 deaths have been recorded where the virus has been listed as a cause on an individual's death certificate.

'Critical response'

Relatives and even care home managers have been critical of the Government's handling of Covid-19 in homes in our region.

Susan McKinney of Wellburn Care, which runs fourteen care homes in the North-East and North Yorkshire, this week said staff had been "threatened" with police action if they did not accept an untested patient.

She said paramedics turned up to Eighton Lodge Care Home in Gateshead on April 10 and “refused” to leave until staff accepted a resident who had been discharged from hospital.

Meanwhile, a County Durham resident raised concerns that it was not Government policy for care homes to isolate new intakes of residents from those already living at homes in England.