Britain has overtaken Italy and is reporting the highest official death toll from coronavirus in Europe with more than 32,000 deaths, as the figure also places it second worldwide for deaths, behind the United States.
- The UK now has the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, behind the United States
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson may ease some restrictions later this week
- According to an Italian statistical report that nation may actually have a much higher death toll than is being reported
The figures released on Tuesday from Britain’s national statistics office added more than 7,000 deaths in England and Wales, raising the total for the United Kingdom to 32,313.
The figure is one of several methods for calculating deaths and is difficult to compare with other countries, but it offers the clearest sign yet that Britain could emerge as the worst-hit country in Europe, despite being hit later than other countries.
Meanwhile the daily cumulative death toll published by the UK Government, which unlike the ONS figures records deaths only for confirmed coronavirus cases, rose on Tuesday to 29,427 people, which is still higher than Italy’s official count.
But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was too soon to be making comparisons on COVID-19 deaths with other countries.
Mr Raab said there were different ways of counting deaths between countries and the numbers also depended on how good individual countries were at gathering statistics.
Britain’s high death toll could increase political pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who waited longer than other European leaders to order a lockdown to curb the spread of the virus in March.
Opposition parties have raised questions about Mr Johnson’s initial decision to delay a lockdown at a time when hospitals in Italy were already being overrun.
Some restrictions may ease
Mr Johnson will consider evidence provided by scientists at a review on Thursday before taking any decision on the next steps against the coronavirus outbreak, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
Britain must review the measures put in place six weeks ago in two days’ time, but any decision could come after that to allow ministers to consider and approve any changes to a lockdown that has all but shut the economy and kept millions at home.
Asked whether Mr Johnson would make a statement unveiling measures covering the next phase of Britain’s plan against the novel coronavirus on Sunday, the spokesman said: “I think what matters is that we get this right, that we fully consider all the evidence and ensure that we can communicate the next steps whatever they may be in a very clear way to the public.”
“Once we have the scientific evidence and we’ve completed the review process, we will be able to set out what those are.”
Britain is expected to set out guidelines to allow some businesses to return to work, through measures including rules to keep workers distanced from each other and staggering work times, and possibly easing rules on social gatherings.
On the guidelines for business to return to work, the spokesman said the advice had yet to be finalised.
“We are continuing working with the unions on developing sensible guidance for businesses that will give UK workers the utmost confidence that they can return to work safely,” he added.
Asked whether Britain could allow small social gatherings to take place outside, the spokesman said scientific advice suggesting that there is less likelihood of transmission outdoors would be considered in the Government’s review.