London — The UK reported its highest daily death toll since the Covid-19 pandemic began, as data suggested one in eight people in the UK have had the disease.
The news came as British health secretary Matt Hancock said he was self-isolating until Sunday after receiving a warning from the health service's Covid-19 mobile phone app that he may have been in contact with someone who tested positive.
A further 1,610 people in the UK died within 28 days of a positive test, according to government figures released Tuesday — taking the total number of deaths to more than 90,000.
According to Oxford University research, the UK's is the highest daily death rate in the world.
Covid-19 related deaths will “continue for some time throughout this second wave”, Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said. “Whilst there are some early signs that show our sacrifices are working, we must continue to strictly abide by the measures in place.”
England is in its third national lockdown, with schools closed to most pupils and people ordered to stay at home. Ministers have pointed to early signs that infections are beginning to fall in some areas but say people must stay home to reduce the spread of the virus and ease pressure on hospitals.
A survey by the Office for National Statistics found one in eight people in England tested positive for antibodies against the disease in December, suggesting they had the infection in the past. The highest positivity was seen in Yorkshire and The Humber in northeast England, followed by London.
Boris Johnson’s government is pinning its hopes on a mass vaccination programme to reduce hospitalisations and ultimately deaths, and aims to slowly lift restrictions from March to allow the economy to re-open. Official data released Tuesday showed that 4,266,577 people in the UK have received their first dose of a vaccine.
Schools in London and southeast England could reopen ahead of the rest of the country after lockdown because the capital and surrounding areas were the first to be affected by the new strain of coronavirus, according to deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries.
“It’s likely that as we’re hopefully starting to see some glimmers of hope that London has been affected earlier by the new variant, that may move across the country,” Harries told a meeting of parliament’s education committee.
Asked by MPs whether there could be a regional or phased system for reopening schools, she replied: “It’s likely that we will have some sort of regional separation of interventions.”
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