London, 26 January 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Britain on Tuesday became the first country in Europe to record over 100,000 Covid-19-related deaths, official figures show.
According to figures published on Tuesday, an additional 1,631 deaths were reported the previous day, bringing Britain’s total death toll to 100,162.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told journalists at a press conference in Downing Street that it was “hard to compute the sorrow” brought by the “grim statistic.” Johnson said that he had spoken to families of those bereaved from the coronavirus and “will continue to do so.”
“I am deeply sorry for every life that’s been lost, and as prime minister I take full responsibility for everything that the government has done,” Johnson said.
Joining him at the press conference, Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, warned that Britain would see “quite a lot more deaths” over the next few weeks before the effects of the vaccines kick in.
Labour leader Keir Starmer described it as a “national tragedy,” adding: “We must never become numb to these numbers or treat them as just statistics. Every death is a loved one, a friend, a neighbour, a partner or a colleague. It is an empty chair at the dinner table.”
Independent SAGE, a group of scientists set up during the crisis to provide advice to the public, criticized the prime minister’s response to the death toll.
“As the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths within 28 days of a positive #Covid test is passed, Boris Johnson says he could ‘exhaust the thesaurus of misery’. No thanks. How about this govt learns from previous mistakes to prevent more unnecessary deaths and suffering instead?” the group posted on Twitter.
More than 3.6 million people have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began in January last year, while over 6.8 million people have received their first vaccination jab since the rollout began in December.
The landmark number came after the minister for vaccines promised Britain’s supply of coronavirus jabs, some of which are being shipped from Europe, are safe despite a row over vaccine supply.
Nadhim Zahawi said on Tuesday that he was “confident” the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine supply, which is being distributed from a base in Belgium, would continue despite European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides’ proposal to establish a register for future exports of the jab.
“I’m confident that the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered,” he told Sky News. “Pfizer has made sure that they have always delivered for us, they will continue to do so.
“They have made a very important announcement on the equitable supply of the whole world, including the European Union, and I’m sure they will deliver for the European Union, the United Kingdom and for the rest of the world.”
Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine but has also placed orders with other suppliers including AstraZeneca/Oxford, Moderna and Valneva.
Separately, British lawmakers were due to announce new quarantine plans on Tuesday that could see travellers being forced to quarantine in hotels for 10 days upon arriving back in to Britain.
No official announcement was given, however Johnson reportedly planned to discuss the proposals with senior ministers at a “Covid Operations” committee on Tuesday, according to the PA news agency.