Thousands of people in care are believed to have died but many are not believed to have been included in statistics tallying Covid-19 deaths.
The elderly are the demographic most at risk from the coronavirus with death rates for those infected with the disease over the age of 80 at around 15 percent.
Nowhere is this stark statistic on clearer display than at care homes across the US and UK where mass casualties have been reported because of the disease.
The nature of such homes means many people susceptible to the illnesses live in close proximity, allowing it to spread swiftly.
In both the US and UK, the problem is exacerbated by the lack of protective equipment for both residents and carers.
In one incident, police in the state of New Jersey found 17 bodies at a nursing home after receiving an anonymous tip.
These bodies were kept in “a makeshift morgue” within the home that was overwhelmingly crowded.
“The staff was overwhelmed by the number of bodies,” said Andover Police Chief Eric Danielson, adding that his officers helped move 13 bodies to a refrigerated trailer at another medical site.
New Jersey’s governor Phil Murphy said he had asked his attorney general to launch a wide-ranging investigation after becoming “outraged that bodies of the dead were allowed to pile up”.
The probe comes as officials across the United States grapple with mounting deaths at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Death toll in the thousands
New Jersey is not alone. According to NBC News, the coronavirus related death toll in long-term care facilities has more than doubled since last week, reaching 5,670 on April 16.
The data relied on information from 29 states, so there were more than a thousand facilities not added to the data.
Nearly 1.5 million people live in nursing homes in the United States.
In New York state alone, the number of Covid-19 deaths jumped from 1,330 to 3,060 last week
UK excludes care home statistics
Authorities in the UK have faced criticism for their handling of care home deaths, particularly for not including the deaths in its official tally of coronavirus victims.
According to the Guardian, two of the UK’s biggest nursing homes had 521 coronavirus deaths between them alone.
Care home operators and staff say that the official figure likely underestimates the true toll in facilities that house some of the country’s oldest and most vulnerable people.
David Behan, chairman of home operator HC-One, said cases of the new coronavirus had been reported in 232 of the firm’s homes – two-thirds of the total. He said 311 residents and one staff member have died with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
“Covid-19 deaths are representative of about ... just under about a third of all deaths that we’ve had over the past three weeks,” he told the BBC.
Ros Altmann, a former government minister who campaigns for older people, said frail elderly people were being overlooked in the pandemic.
“We must not forget that the mark of a civilised society must reflect how it treats its most vulnerable and oldest citizens,” she said.
Nearly 410,000 people live in nursing homes in the UK, and there are 11,300 care homes.