Europe’s worst-hit country in terms of coronavirus deaths has reached a grim milestone, as transmission of the virus shows no signs of tailing off amid a nationwide lockdown.
The United Kingdom now sits at 50,365 deaths as of Wednesday (local time), becoming the first European country to surpass the 50,000 mark.
It sits fifth in terms of deaths globally behind the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, however all four have substantially larger populations than the UK.
Government modelling indicates that number is set to rise dramatically with more than 1000 daily deaths feared by early December.
Wednesday’s daily toll was 595.
The UK’s death toll would likely have been much higher if it weren’t for a new definition of a COVID-19 death in August which was reevaluated to only count deaths which occurred within 28 days of a laboratory-confirmed positive test.
The move at the time saw more than 5000 deaths drop off the official death toll.
The latest bleak milestone comes as news of successful vaccine trials gave hope to its 66 million people who have been plunged into another lockdown.
The UK is consistently recording more than 20,000 cases a day as a sense of fatigue to restrictions sets in, fuelled by an indecisive government whose handling of the pandemic has come under intense scrutiny from the media, medical experts and the Labour party.
Earlier in the pandemic, the government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, had said that keeping the death toll below 20,000 would be "a good outcome".
He issued a daunting warning to residents in September cases could surge, and while they have not hit the worst case scenario of 50,000 daily cases from his predictions, his poignant message appeared to do little to deter thousands who continued to socialise freely.
Shocking video from several cities including Liverpool hours before lockdowns were introduced showed mass crowds of people gathering in the street.
PM says UK isn’t ‘out of the woods yet’
Asked about the latest milestone, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain is "not out of the woods yet" even as drugmaker Pfizer this week announced that early data showed its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective.
"Every death is a tragedy and we mourn everybody who's gone," Johnson said.
He has ordered England back into a month-long national lockdown amid concerns that a second wave of infections could overwhelm the health service.
But Johnson has been criticised by political opponents for moving too slowly into both national lockdowns, for a shortage of personal protective equipment and for failing to protect the elderly in care homes.
A further 22,950 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, up from 20,412 a day earlier.
"Sadly the upward trend is likely to continue and it will be several weeks before any impact of the current measures - and the sacrifices we are all making – is seen and is reflected in the data," Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of Public Health England, said in a statement.
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