Boris Johnson has refused to rule out another national lockdown, as the death toll from coronavirus in the UK rose by 574, with another 39,036 cases.
Thursday’s figure, which covers people who died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, brings the total number of deaths in the UK to 69,625.
Separate figures released by statistical agencies for deaths in which Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, along with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show that there have now been 86,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the UK.
The figures came as Johnson told a Downing Street news conference that England was facing “considerable new pressure” from the mutant strain, leading to tougher restrictions in the south-east of the country.
The prime minister said that the strict tiering system, community testing and deployment of the vaccine would be the approach to tackle the pandemic.
When asked if he could rule out a national lockdown after Christmas, Johnson said: “Obviously, we are facing very considerable new pressures, particularly from the new variant and the speed with which it has been spreading … You will have seen what was announced during the last day. More or less about that and, as much as I regret it, I think we need to control this virus now, to prevent it from getting out of control in January. Because we need to buy time to make the vaccine reach so many arms of the elderly and vulnerable as we can. So it is difficult to level, test in the community and launch the vaccine, and we will continue that approach. ” He added: “I know it has been very, very difficult in the last few weeks and, I have to tell people, it will continue to be difficult.”
Analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that around half of all new coronavirus cases in England could be the new variant.
Thursday’s death toll figures were a slight reduction from Wednesday, when the UK recorded 744 deaths, the highest number in a day since April 29.
The latest figures show 2,143 patients were admitted to the hospital on Thursday.
The government said there were another 39,036 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK as of 9am on Thursday.
A total of 239,928 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the past seven days, an increase of 49.1% in the previous seven days. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 2,188,587.
The rate of new Covid-19 cases in London has tripled in just two weeks, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England.
The rate stood at 602.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the seven days to December 20, compared to 200.3 in the seven days to December 6.
Rates have increased in all regions, with the East of England posting the next highest rate after London (440.7), followed by the South East of England (380.6) and the West Midlands (218.8).
Johnson had already announced that more than 500,000 people had received the first of two injections needed to get vaccinated, but the exact figure released Thursday was 616,933 between Dec. 8 and Dec. 20.
In England, more than 70% of people who received a coronavirus vaccine were over the age of 80, figures show.
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