UK daily covid death toll nears 1,000 despite tightest restrictions
London, Dec. 31, 2020 (AltAfrica)-The UK’s daily COVID-19 death toll hit 981 on Wednesday, as the country continued to grapple with a new variant of the virus.
This is the country’s highest number of recorded death within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test since April.
The total number of people who have lost their lives to the disease in the UK now stands at 72,548.
It comes after several more areas of England will be moved into the country’s highest level of coronavirus measures from midnight on Wednesday, health minister Matt Hancock has announced.
There are currently more people in hospital with COVID-19 than in spring – and infections are still rising.
As of Wednesday, there were 23,771 people being treated for the disease in hospitals in the UK, compared with 18,974 in mid-April.
Monday also saw a record-breaking 41,385 cases in a single day, only to be shattered on Tuesday when 53,135 new cases were reported. By Wednesday, which saw a total of 50,023 cases reported, the south-eastern county of Essex had declared a “major incident” due to healthcare services struggling with demand
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to “redouble our efforts”, follow the rules where they live and “see in the New Year safely at home”. He also hailed the approval by medical authorities of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
Doctors in Britain say they are currently facing enormous pressure from the new coronavirus variant as it threatens a worse situation than at the peak last April.
More Tier 4 areas announced
The government dashed many hopes for a relatively normal Christmas in the week prior to the holiday, introducing a brand new tier – Tier 4 – with the strictest restrictions for London and parts of the South East of England.
Now, areas in the Midlands, North East, parts of the North West and parts of the South West will join the capital in Tier 4, meaning three-quarters of the country will see the tightest restrictions imposed.
Almost all other areas of England have been moved up to the second-highest band of restrictions – Tier 3.
Johnson said in a press conference on Wednesday from Downing Street that “the sheer pace of the spread of this new variant requires us now to take even tougher actions”.
Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, described the situation in many parts of England as “precarious”.
“The NHS has not yet seen the impact of the infections that will have occurred during mixing on Christmas day,” he added, describing that statement as “sobering”.
According to Hancock, the majority of new cases contributing to the latest wave are thought to be that of the new, highly-transmissible variant.
But the health minister has, however, confirmed to one radio station that no tiers would be introduced above Tier 4.
“I know that people understand this, I know that these decisions aren’t easy and they have a big disruptive impact on peoples lives, but I know people understand why we have to do it, especially with the vaccine around the corner,” he said.
He told local media: “The ‘suppress the virus’ bit has got a whole lot harder since the new variant really got going over December.
“Now the majority of the new cases in the UK are the new variant. It is much, much easier to transmit from one person to another.”
Reopening of secondary schools delayed
The return of secondary school pupils (aged 11-16) to classrooms will be delayed in an attempt to dampen infection rates, education secretary Gavin Williamson announced on Wednesday.
Older secondary and college pupils (aged 16-18 and above) will be delayed until 11 January, with everyone else back a week later. All secondary school children will be back in education establishments by January 18.
He added that primary schools in a “small number of areas” in England where infection rates are currently highest will not reopen for in-person teaching to all pupils on the planned January 4, although vulnerable children and the children of critical workers will be accepted.