There are around 17,000 care and nursing homes in England, according to media reports - pointing to almost 2,300 homes affected
Fears were growing in Britain on Tuesday about the toll coronavirus is taking in care homes, with charities sounding the alarm and new figures pointing to many more deaths than so far reported.
One charity chief warned that older people were being "abandoned", with the official UK health ministry toll, which currently stands at 11,329, only including deaths in hospital.
A recent study by researchers based at the London School of Economics looking at data from five European countries - excluding Britain - found care home residents account for 42-57 percent of all Covid-19 related deaths.
But new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday found a total of only 217 deaths and suspected deaths involving Covid-19 in care homes in England and Wales up until April 3.
A further 33 people died in hospices, 136 in homes and three in other "communal establishments."
The overall ONS death toll for England is 15% higher than the health ministry numbers for the same period, according to Nick Stripe, head of health analysis and life events at the ONS.
This is because it includes "all mentions of Covid-19 on the death certificate, including suspected Covid-19, as well as deaths in the community."
On Tuesday, the executive chairman of Britain's largest care home operator, David Behan of HC-One, said coronavirus is present in 232 of its homes - about two-thirds of the total.
He said 311 residents had died of coronavirus or suspected coronavirus and one member of staff also died over the weekend.
"The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don't matter," said Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK.
England's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, on Monday said that 13.5% of the country's care homes had reported outbreaks of coronavirus - 92 in the previous 24 hours.
There are around 17,000 care and nursing homes in England, according to media reports - pointing to almost 2,300 homes affected.
Whitty said he would like more testing in care homes to determine the true number, but tests are currently limited.
Abrahams and the heads of other charities involved in the sector on Monday wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock asking for help.
"We are appalled by the devastation which coronavirus is causing in the care system," said the letter signed by the Alzheimer's Society, Marie Curie, Care England and Independent Age.
"As a first step we urgently need testing and protective equipment made available to care homes - as we're seeing people in them being abandoned to the worst that coronavirus can do," they wrote.