Coronavirus deaths ‘rising sharply’, medical director warns

The number of Covid-19 deaths is “rising sharply”, according to experts, though more slowly than it did during the first wave.

A further 241 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 43,967, according to Government figures.

This is the highest daily statistic since 258 deaths were reported on June 5 – but there is often a delay in the reporting of deaths over the weekend.

Deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said he expected the upward trend in coronavirus deaths to continue to climb.

Separate figures published by statistics agencies show there have now been 59,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The Government also said that, as of 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 21,330 lab-confirmed cases in the UK, bringing the total to 762,542, with the R rate between 1.2 and 1.4.

Commenting on the latest rise in reported deaths, Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, said: “The trend in deaths is rising sharply.

“Tragically we know that older people and those with underlying health conditions tend to suffer more if they become unwell.

“We all have a responsibility to follow the restrictions to help stop the virus spreading to those who are at greater risk.”

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, Prof Van-Tam said: “Part of that surge in deaths is related to the weekly pattern of slightly lower figures at the weekend, and then a kind of catch-up earlier in the week.

“But overall is the trend upwards? Yes.

“Do I expect the trend in deaths to continue upwards? Yes, unfortunately I do.”

Cambridge University Professor Sheila M Bird said that, according to ONS data, coronavirus deaths are “more than doubling fortnightly”, but this rate is “currently lower and slower” than in March by a large margin.

She said: “The bad news is that the rate has not started to abate.

“By England changing our close contact patterns now, as Scotland’s central belt did from October 13 for two weeks and Wales did yesterday, we need to moderate down the rate of increase over the coming weeks, and the sooner the better.”

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK
Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK

She added that “serial circuit-breakers” over “months, not just weeks” will be needed to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

However, the Prime Minister said he is “trying to avoid a national lockdown at all”.

Boris Johnson said: “We don’t rule anything out but the difficulty is that the distribution of the virus this time round is very uneven by comparison with March and April.

“And so the right response is, as many other countries are doing, to go to this local and regional approach.”

Prof Van-Tam said the rise in cases among the over-60s is putting pressure on the NHS and could bring “significant problems”.