How many people in the United Kingdom have died from the coronavirus? It’s a bleak question with many answers — too many, considering the importance of this number for an anxious public, for politicians trying to craft a strategy and for financial markets seeking guidance.

The U.K.’s official COVID-19 death count was 12,868 as of Tuesday, which on the surface would suggest a more benign outbreak than in Italy, Spain, France or the United States. But this is a number with a big problem: It only counts deaths in hospitals of people who tested positive for the virus. It fails to capture other sources, such as deaths in nursing homes, where elderly residents are particularly vulnerable and where staff lack adequate equipment.

Another way to try to capture the size of the virus crisis is to look at all death certificates, and tally up those that mention COVID-19. That data is compiled by the Office for National Statistics and it gives a more complete picture, albeit with an 11-day publication lag. The latest snapshot, covering the period through April 3, shows 5,979 coronavirus deaths registered in England, the part of the U.K. with the heaviest toll. By contrast, using the official daily hospital count, England’s deaths as of that date totaled 3,939. That’s a gap of 2,040, or 51.8 percent. The difference had been even wider, at more than 60 percent, earlier in the month.