UK records highest number of daily Covid-19 deaths since outbreak began


The UK has reported the highest number of daily deaths since the pandemic started, as new data showed one in eight people are likely to have had the virus in England.

Public Health England (PHE) said a further 1,610 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 – the highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since the outbreak began.

The new record brings the UK total for those who have died after contracting coronavirus to 91,470.

However, the true number of those who have lost their lives to the virus has already reached the 108,000 mark, once cases where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate is taken into account.

After the latest death figures were revealed, Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth tweeted: "Awful. Horrific. Devastating. And it didn't have to be like this."

Dr Yvonne Doyle, PHE's medical director, said the country should be braced for further deaths and urged people to keep to the current social restrictions.

"Each death is a tragedy and the number of Covid-19 related deaths within 28 days of a positive test will continue for some time throughout this second wave," she said.

"Whilst there are some early signs that show our sacrifices are working, we must continue to strictly abide by the measures in place. By reducing our contacts and staying at home we will see a fall in the number of infections over time."

The Government also said that, as of 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 33,355 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, bringing the total to just shy of 3.5 million.

The stark mortality record comes after antibody data on infection in private households suggested that one in eight people in England would have tested positive for antibodies to Covid-19 by December last year, up from one in 14 in October.

One in 10 in Wales had also been infected by December, alongside one in 13 in Northern Ireland and one in 11 in Scotland.

The figures come from the Office for National Statistic's Covid-19 Infection Survey in partnership with the University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Public Health England and Wellcome Trust.

They are based on the proportion of the population who are likely to have tested positive for antibodies to Covid-19, based on blood test results from a sample of people aged 16 and over, but do not reflect all the people who have had coronavirus and do not take account of antibodies waning over time.

In related news:

– Health Secretary Matt Hancock is self-isolating until Sunday after being prompted by the NHS Test and Trace app that he came into close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

– First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that lockdown restrictions are to be extended until at least the middle of February in Scotland, with schools remaining closed to the majority of pupils.

– Wales could receive a larger share of coronavirus vaccines in future because it has an older population, First Minister Mark Drakeford has told the Welsh Parliament.

– Up to 2,000 people working in roles in the Covid-19 vaccine supply chain will be offered jabs to help ensure the UK gets the doses it needs to protect the most vulnerable, the Government has announced.

– NHS England said 400 military personnel were now working alongside doctors and nurses in hospitals across London and the Midlands, with a mix of combat medical technicians and soldiers performing general duties, including helping on wards and assisting with porter duties.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a meeting at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, where she announced that lockdown restrictions are to be extended until at least the middle of February
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a meeting at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh (Russell Cheyne/PA)

The vaccine programme – seen as the best hope for lifting restrictions and easing the pressure on hospitals – continues to gather pace, with 4,133,720 people in England, Scotland and Wales reported to have received a first dose of vaccine.

According to the Prime Minister, half of elderly residents have received a vaccine.

On Monday, the Government announced it will roll out the vaccine to the over-70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable this week.

But the National Care Forum has warned ministers that it is "not a numbers game" and that care homes should continue to be at the front of the queue, with Government setting the target of vaccinating everyone in care homes by January 24.

Executive director Vic Rayner said: "Vaccination across all homes must remain the priority for local health and care systems.

"We must keep our eye on the main prize, which is to get those who will benefit most from the vaccination inoculated first."