The United Kingdom’s official death toll from the yearlong coronavirus pandemic has surpassed the grim figure of one hundred thousand, the fifth highest in the world, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The UK government’s data indicated that more than sixteen hundred people had died daily within twenty-eight days of a positive test. To date, the European country has registered more than 3.6 million infections.
The nation is already mired in a third lockdown that has closed all nonessential shops, schools, and universities for at least six weeks. Many citizens, however, have grown frustrated with the new restrictions that require people to stay home except for essential reasons, such as grocery shopping. Police have been busy issuing fines to those who break the rules.
The World Health Organization has also called on neighboring European countries to intensify coronavirus measures as the region deals with a new and more contagious variant that was first detected in southeast England in September 2020.
That mutant virus quickly spread to London and is now responsible for the majority of new infections in the country, putting even more pressure on the health-care system that already has been pushed to the brink. Currently, about thirty-seven thousand patients are receiving care in hospitals, compared to roughly eighteen thousand during the pandemic’s first peak in April.
Previous reports have contended that the mutant virus is between 30 percent and 70 percent more transmissible but does not seem to be more lethal. However, a new UK report released on Friday stated that there is “a realistic possibility” that the new variant, also known as B.1.1.7, could eventually produce higher death rates than other strains.
“We’ve been informed that in addition to spreading more quickly . . . there is some evidence that the new variant . . . may be more associated with a higher degree of mortality,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a news conference.
The UK’s chief scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, added that more evidence was needed to make a clear call on the new variant but did note that the data is pointing toward a higher mortality rate.
Johnson also took full responsibility for the government’s actions to limit the further spread of the virus.
“What I can tell you is that we truly did everything we could, and continue to do everything we can, to minimize loss of life and to minimize suffering,” he said.
Earlier this month, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned that the United Kingdom should prepare for the “worst point” of the pandemic.
“We’re now at the worst point of this epidemic for the UK,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “In the future we will have the vaccine, but the numbers at the moment are higher than they were in the previous peak—by some distance.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.