WEEKLY deaths linked to the coronavirus have fallen in the borough, new figures show.

The NHS Confederation says "tens of thousands of lives have been saved" as a result of lockdown measures, after the number of UK-wide coronavirus deaths reached its lowest weekly level for six weeks in mid-May.

But the Health Foundation think tank has called for more priority to be given to vulnerable people needing social care following “the huge loss of life” in care homes.

Office for National Statistics data shows that in Wigan, 291 deaths involving COVID-19 were provisionally registered up to May 23.

Of those, 62 occurred outside hospital – including 52 in care homes and seven at private homes. A further three deaths occurred in hospices, other community establishments or elsewhere.

It means the death toll increased by 25 in the latest weekly period, a smaller increase than the 45 seen the previous week.

The figures include deaths that occurred up to May 15 but were registered up to eight days later.

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

Across England and Wales, more than 42,000 deaths involving COVID-19 were provisionally registered up to May 23.

Of those, 3,810 were registered in the week ending May 15 – the lowest weekly total since the week ending April 3.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the numbers are a "stark reminder that lockdown measures have made such a difference".

He said: "Tens of thousands of lives have been saved and that is why it is still so important to follow guidance in the coming weeks, even though that guidance will change and become nuanced."

Mr Dickson added that a second spike of infections "would be a disaster and must be avoided".

Of the deaths in England and Wales up to May 23, 65% occurred in hospitals and 29% in care homes.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, said the latest figures "illustrate the huge loss of life in care homes".

"The action plan for social care was published nearly a month after the lockdown was introduced," she said.

"Protecting vulnerable people needing social care should be given more obvious priority.

"Targeted action to tackle local outbreaks in care homes must include effective testing and tracing, and ensuring consistent supplies of PPE to prevent a further spike in avoidable deaths."

In the week to May 23:

Deaths outside hospital increased by seven, climbing to a total of 62

Hospital deaths increased to 229, 18 higher than the 211 recorded in the previous week

Overall, the death toll climbed by 25, compared to a rise of 45 in the previous seven-day period