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UK’s COVID-19 death toll tops 40,000; worst in Europe

UK’s COVID-19 death toll tops 40,000; worst in Europe
A woman wearing face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 walks to take a London Underground Tube train at Waterloo station on May 11.
LONDON, May 12 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 5/12/2020 9:06:11 AM IST

The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 death toll now exceeds 40,000, by far the worst yet reported in Europe, raising more questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics for England and Wales brought the United Kingdom’s official death toll to 38,289 as of May 3, according to a Reuters tally of death registrations that also includes Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Since then, at least 2,251 people have died from COVID-19 in English hospitals, according to the latest daily data, bringing the true death toll as of Tuesday to just over 40,000.

While different ways of counting make comparisons with other countries difficult, the figure confirmed Britain was among those hit worst by a pandemic that has killed more than 285,000 people worldwide.

The data came a day after Johnson set out a gradual plan to get Britain back to work, including advice on wearing home-made face coverings - though his attempt to lift the coronavirus lockdown prompted confusion. The data painted a grim picture in care homes, which have been especially hard hit by the virus.

“Care homes (are) showing the slowest decline, sadly,” ONS statistician Nick Stripe told BBC TV.

“For the first time that I can remember, there were more deaths in total in care homes than there were in hospitals in that week.”

Care homes now account for a third of all COVID-19 deaths in England and Wales.

Unlike the daily death toll announced by the government, Tuesday’s ONS figures include suspected deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In Italy, the next worst-hit country in Europe, the death toll stood at 30,739 as of Monday, according to a measure based solely on confirmed cases rather than suspected cases.

Broadly comparable British data on Tuesday showed 32,692 deaths.

Early evidence, though, suggests Britain is faring badly on that front too.

So far this year, there have been more than 50,000 excess deaths compared to a five-year average, ONS statistician Stripe said.

The ONS said deaths from all causes decreased for a second week running as of May 1, but 8,012 more people than average died in the 18th week of 2020.

Vaccine may never be found: UK PM

 London, May 12 (PTI): British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that a mass vaccine for the novel coronavirus may be over a year away and, in the worst-case scenario, may in fact never be found.

In his foreword to the government’s new 50-page guidance on a step by step easing of the lockdown measures in place to control the spread of the deadly virus, the UK prime minister lays out plans for businesses to gradually start reopening with “COVID-19 Secure” measures of social distancing and for the public to use “good solid British common sense” as the economy is unlocked.

“A mass vaccine or treatment may be more than a year away,” said Johnson, highlighting the work being done in the UK by scientists at Oxford University and Imperial College London towards this mission.

“Indeed, in a worst-case scenario, we may never find a vaccine. So our plan must countenance a situation where we are in this, together, for the long haul, even while doing all we can to avoid that outcome,” he said.

Admitting that a vaccine or drug-based treatment is the only “feasible long-term solution”, he said the UK has accelerated this with “promising” vaccine development programmes and a collaboration between Oxford University and pharma major AstraZeneca was a vital step that could help rapidly advance the manufacture of a Covid-19 vaccine when it is ready.

As part of global efforts, he flagged the GBP 388 million in aid funding for research into vaccines, tests and treatment, including GBP 250m to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

“But while we hope for a breakthrough, hope is not a plan,” he said, as he unveiled his plan for starting to lift lockdown restrictions.

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