U.K. Records its Highest Daily Covid Death Toll in the Pandemic

The U.K. reported its highest daily death toll since the Covid-19 pandemic began, as data suggested one in eight people in England have had the disease.

A further 1,610 people in the U.K. died within 28 days of a positive test, according to government figures released Tuesday -- taking the total number of deaths to more than 90,000.

Covid-19 related deaths will “continue for some time throughout this second wave,” Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said in a statement. “Whilst there are some early signs that show our sacrifices are working, we must continue to strictly abide by the measures in place.”

England is currently in its third national lockdown, with schools closed to most pupils and people ordered to stay at home. Ministers have pointed to early signs that infections are beginning to fall in some areas but say people must stay home to reduce the spread of the virus and ease pressure on hospitals.

A survey by the Office for National Statistics found one in eight people in England tested positive for antibodies against the disease in December, suggesting they had the infection in the past. The highest positivity was seen in Yorkshire and The Humber in northeast England, followed by London.

Boris Johnson’s government is pinning its hopes on a mass vaccination program to reduce hospitalizations and ultimately deaths, and aims to slowly lift restrictions from March to allow the economy to re-open. Official data released Tuesday showed that 4,266,577 people in the U.K. have received their first dose of a vaccine.

Schools in London and southeast England could re-open ahead of the rest of the country after lockdown because the capital and surrounding areas were the first to be affected by the new strain of coronavirus, according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries.

“It’s likely that as we’re hopefully starting to see some glimmers of hope that London has been affected earlier by the new variant, that may move across the country,” Harries told a meeting of Parliament’s education committee.

Asked by lawmakers whether there could be a regional or phased system for reopening schools, she replied: “It’s likely that we will have some sort of regional separation of interventions.”

But just as infection rates differ across the country, so differences are emerging in the pace of vaccination program. Even one of Johnson’s Cabinet ministers, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, questioned the uneven way in which the shots are being administered.

Asked about vaccination rates in different parts of the country, Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters supplies are being directed to any areas that may be falling behind. He also reiterated the government’s priority to re-open schools as soon as possible.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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