UK exceeds 50,000 virus deaths

Pan Pylas
·3-min read

The United Kingdom has become the fifth country in the world to record more than 50,000 coronavirus-related deaths, a level one of the nation's leading doctors says "should never have been reached".

Figures on Wednesday showed 595 more people in the country died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, the highest daily number since May.

The UK death toll from the pandemic stands at 50,365.

Britain, which has the highest virus-related death toll in Europe, joins the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico in reporting more than 50,000, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

Its overall death toll is widely considered to be far higher as the total reported only includes those who have tested positive and not those who died of COVID-related symptoms after 28 days.

Like other nations in Europe, the UK is experiencing a resurgence of the virus and has imposed new restrictions to curb infections over the past few weeks.

Though England was put under lockdown last week, the government has been criticised for having imposed it too late, a charge it also faced when it imposed a UK-wide lockdown in March.

Following the news about the death toll exceeding 50,000, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK was better equipped than during spring's first wave, when more than 40,000 deaths were reported.

In addition to the prospect of a vaccine or vaccines against the coronavirus, Johnson pointed to a ramp-up in testing.

Last week, the government started its first citywide program in Liverpool. It is planning more mass testing, including of university students in early December ahead of their return home for the holidays.

"We have two boxing gloves to pummel the disease in the weeks and months that follow," said Johnson, who was hospitalised with COVID-19 in April.

"But I have got to stress that we are not out of the woods yet. It does require everybody to follow the guidance."

In Wednesday's daily update, the government also said another 22,950 people tested positive for the virus.

While the number of new cases is much higher than 24-hour statistics recorded in the summer, daily confirmed cases appear to be stabilising, or at least, growing far more slowly.

Because of time lags, the number of people being hospitalised and dying are expected to continue rising for weeks, even after the number of confirmed infections do start going down.

Under the terms of England's current lockdown, non-essential places such as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, golf courses, gyms, swimming pools, entertainment venues and stores selling items like books, clothing and sneakers, must remain closed until at least December 2.

Whatever happens in the near-term, there are calls for a public inquiry to assess a range of issues many think have led to more deaths than should have occurred.

"Today's figure is a terrible indictment of poor preparation, poor organisation by the government, insufficient infection control measures, coupled with late and often confusing messaging for the public," said Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, council chair of the British Medical Association, a union for doctors.

"This is a point that should never have been reached."