UK virus deaths, cases pass milestones

Aine Fox
·3-min read

The official coronavirus death toll in the UK has risen to more than 80,000, while lab-confirmed cases have passed the three million mark.

It comes as doctors warn that pressure on the health system could get worse in the coming weeks, and amid criticism that the current lockdown measures is not strict enough.

The number of patients with COVID-19 in hospital is also at a record high in England, and medics have warned the full impact of social mixing over the Christmas period has not yet been seen.

The Government has also doubled down on its "stay at home" message by launching a new advert, fronted by England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, urging everyone in England to "act like you've got" coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace revealed the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh received their COVID-19 vaccinations on Saturday.

A royal source confirmed the injections were administered by a royal household doctor at Windsor Castle.

The pair, both in their 90s, are among the priority groups to be vaccinated in a rollout which aims to see all the most vulnerable receive a jab by mid-February.

Government figures showed a further 1035 people had died of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the UK total to 80,868.

The total number of lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has reached 3,017,409, after a further 59,937 fresh cases.

Cases were estimated to have been as high as 100,000 per day at the peak of the first wave in April.

But scientists advising the Government estimate there are currently more than 100,000 new infections per day and possibly higher than 150,000, which they believe puts the current number of daily cases at a higher level than ever during the pandemic.

They believe the current lockdown may lead to a plateau of cases of coronavirus across the UK rather than the dramatic cut seen following the March and April lockdown.

Medics have warned things are likely to get worse before they get better for the health service.

Dr Simon Walsh, deputy chair of the British Medical Association's consultants, said the epidemiology from the previous wave indicates the situation is likely to deteriorate over the coming weeks.

"I'm afraid all of us who are working on the front line believe - and this is based on the evidence, I'm afraid - that it is going to get worse before it gets better," he told the BBC.

Dr Justin Varney, director of public health at Birmingham City Council, said hospitals had still not seen the full extent of patients who caught coronavirus over Christmas.

The current lockdown was been branded "too lax" by Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London.

She said there is still "a lot of household contact" and that the "wide definition of critical workers" means "30-50 per cent of (school) classes (are) full-up".

"We have the winter season and the virus survives longer in the cold, plus people spend more time indoors," she said.

"And secondly, we have this new variant which is 50-70% more infectious."

With the current lockdown and vaccine rollout, deaths from coronavirus are expected to start dropping in February, while hospital admissions should fall after that.