The UK has passed a grim milestone, as it became the first European country to suffer 50,000 deaths from coronavirus.
In a bleak reminder of the threat Covid-19 continues to pose, despite recent hopes of a potential vaccine, Britain’s official death toll increased by 595 in the deadliest single day of the pandemic since April.
Prime minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that “we’re not out of the woods yet” and urged Britons to continue to observe restrictions which will see pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops in England closed and most social contact banned until 2 December.
And deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam warned that the breakthrough announced by Pfizer and BioNTech on Monday will not provide a “short cut” out of lockdown.
The official tally of 50,365 deaths in the UK within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus is likely to underestimate the true total, as separate figures from the Office for National Statistics show more than 65,000 fatalities in which Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate.
The figure puts the UK fifth in the world league table for deaths, behind the USA, Brazil, India and Mexico.
Meanwhile, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has raised the danger of Covid spreading in overcrowded A&E departments where patients are being kept on trolleys for hours waiting for beds.
Warning that the NHS has 9,000 fewer beds that it needs to cope with coronavirus, Katherine Henderson told The Independent: “Crowding in A&E is unsafe but with coronavirus it is potentially lethal, we have said this endlessly to NHS England. Exactly what we said should not happen is happening. I am absolutely terrified by this.”