More than 100,000 people have died from coronavirus in the UK since the disease first appeared in the country almost a year ago, in what public health experts have said is a sign of “phenomenal failure of policy and practice”.
Government figures on Wednesday showed a record daily reported 1,564 new fatalities, bringing the total to 101,160.
Almost one in 660 people in the UK have died from Covid or Covid-related causes so far during the pandemic. The UK has one of the worst Covid mortality rates in the world, at 151 per 100,000 people, ahead of the US, Spain and Mexico, where there are 116, 113 and 108 deaths per 100,000 people respectively.
Gabriel Scally, a visiting professor of public health at the University of Bristol and a member of the Independent Sage group of experts, said the 100,000-plus death toll was an indictment of the way the pandemic had been handled.
“It is an astounding number of preventable deaths from one cause in one year, [an] absolutely astounding number. It’s a sign of a phenomenal failure of policy and practice in the face of this new and dangerous virus,” Scally said.
There have been 93,418 coronavirus deaths recorded by statistical agencies, based on those with Covid on the death certificate, from the beginning of the pandemic up to 10 January, and a further 7,742 deaths since according to figures published by the government based on deaths within 28 days of a positive test for the virus.
Christina Pagel, a professor of operational research at University College London and also a member of Independent Sage, said that with deaths lagging infections by three to four weeks, the death toll would rise further.
“I could say it’s shocking that [the] UK has [the] worst death toll in Europe, or we could have prevented this with earlier measures in September or October, and it would be true,” she said. But this had been true for weeks, she added, and scientists had repeatedly stressed the gravity of rising infections. “Scientists were saying it all December, warning that deaths would go up after Christmas.”
Official statistics released on Tuesday showed 2020 was the deadliest year in England and Wales for more than a century. More than 608,000 people died last year, 81,653 of whom as a result of coronavirus.
Deaths exceeded 600,000 for only the second time on record, and the toll was just behind that of 611,861 in 1918, the worst year of the flu pandemic.
Scally said the final death toll from Covid was likely to be far higher. “It could add another 50,000 [deaths] before we are finished,” he said.
The way coronavirus deaths in the UK are counted has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. While statistical agencies count deaths where Covid-19 is noted on the death certificate, the government figures released each day count fatalities within 28 days of a positive test for the virus. The Guardian analyses the data from both sources to achieve the most up-to-date fatality count possible.