UK virus-linked death toll passes 150,000

·2-min read

The United Kingdom's official death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has risen above 150,000, government figures show, following a record wave of cases caused by the Omicron variant.

The new deadly milestone comes as a Sunday Times report alleges Prime Minister Boris Johnson personally attending a drinks party in the garden of No.10 Downing Street during the first lockdown.

The Press Association reports that Downing Street did not immediately deny the allegation that Johnson attended the potentially rule-breaking event with wife Carrie in May 2020.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray is investigating the May 20 event as part of her inquiry into numerous allegations of rule-breaking events being held at the prime minister's London residence during the coronavirus pandemic.

There were 313 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test reported on Saturday, taking the total number of fatalities on this measure to 150,057.

A broader but less timely measure of deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate - which includes deaths early in the pandemic when testing was limited - stood at 173,248 as of the last data on December 24.

The UK has registered a surge of cases linked to the Omicron coronavirus variant in recent weeks although death rates have been lower than during previous infection waves.

The UK government has focused on rolling out booster vaccinations - which have reached more than 60 per cent of the population - rather than requiring a return to the lockdown measures used earlier in the pandemic.

About 1.227 million people tested positive for COVID-19 during the past seven days, 11 per cent more than the week before, while the weekly number of deaths was up 38 per cent on the prior week at 1271.

There are tentative signs the number of new cases may have peaked, with 146,390 new cases reported on Saturday, down from the record 218,724 recorded on January 4.

The UK's cumulative death toll is the second-highest in absolute terms in Europe, behind only Russia's.

But on a per-head basis, the United States, Italy, Belgium and several countries in eastern Europe have higher cumulative death rates.

The UK death rate is 7 per cent higher than the European Union average, according to figures collated by Our World in Data.

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