LONDON (Reuters) – Britain reported 1,564 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test for COVID-19 on Wednesday, a record daily toll, meaning more have died in the second wave of the pandemic than the first last year, a health official said.
The reported daily number of deaths exceeded the 1,325 recorded on Jan. 8 and comes as Britain battles a new, more transmissible variant of the virus. The figures showed there were another 47,525 cases, up from 45,533 new cases on Tuesday.
There have now been almost 85,000 deaths in Britain – the fifth highest figure globally – and 3.2 million people have tested positive for COVID-19.
“With each passing day, more and more people are tragically losing their lives to this terrible virus,” Yvonne Doyle, the Medical Director for Public Health England, said on Twitter.
“There have now been more deaths in the second wave than the first.”
Although the daily death toll continues to rise, the number of new cases reported daily over the last week has fallen from a high of 68,053 also recorded on Jan. 8.
Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said it appeared the infection rate was falling or levelling off in some areas, but warned high death numbers were likely to last a few weeks.
“So we’re in for a pretty grim period, I’m afraid,” he told ITV’s Peston show, adding that while lockdown measures were having an impact, he could not rule out the need for even more restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there were about 32,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, about 70% more than during the peak of the first outbreak last April, and he said the risk of intensive care units being overwhelmed was substantial.
“(Health workers) now really are fighting very, very hard to contain this pandemic after months and months in which they’ve really been working flat out and I think the strain is colossal,” he told lawmakers.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Kate Holton, Alex Richardson and Andrew Cawthorne)