Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK “did everything we could” as he acknowledges 100,000 COVID deaths, while the UK witnesses 50,099 fatalities in the space of 79 days
“It’s hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic,” said the Prime Minister, as he addressed the nation last night (26 January) in the wake of the UK reaching over 100,000 COVID deaths.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty added: “Unfortunately, we’re going to see quite a lot more deaths over the next few weeks, before the effects of the vaccine begun to be felt.”
Professor Whitty further said that it wouldn’t be helpful to try and put a number on the expected losses, but some scientists are predicting another 40,000. PM Johnson said that the UK had done everything possible to prevent this situation, a claim that was met with mixed responses across the healthcare field.
‘Earlier action’ would have drastically reduced numbers
Professor Neil Ferguson, Epidemiologist at Imperial College, spoke to the BBC about an alternate course of action. He suggested that more could have been done, with faster decision-making: “Had we acted both earlier and with greater stringency back in September when we first saw case numbers going up, and had a policy of keeping case numbers at a reasonably low level, then I think a lot of the deaths that we’ve seen – not all by any means – but a lot of the deaths that we’ve seen in the last four or five months, could have been avoided.”
Sky journalist Nick Stylianou further explored the numbers:
This is what I find the most shocking:
50,063 deaths in 251 days (2nd March – 7th November).
50,099 deaths in 79 days (8th November – 25th January).
— Nick Stylianou (@nmsonline) January 26, 2021
The science and tech committee said UK not the “best in the world”
On 8 January, the science and tech select committee released a report – examining the Test and Trace system, and the way that UK political leaders made evidence-based decisions. They described UK pandemic action as not the “best in the world”.
The cross-party group found seven key issues in the UK response:
- The UK stopped contact tracing in March, becoming overwhelmed;
- With no permanent virus-fighting team established, infrastructure was lacking when this begun;
- Lack of transparency about SAGE scientists decision-making process;
- Decision-making by Government too slow in comparison to available data;
- The social impact of the virus was overshadowed and not discussed widely;
- The goal of 100,000 tests announced by Matt Hancock was not made in accordance to scientific suggestions, but political ones;
- And finally, data was fragmented across public health organisations – making it difficult to access a cohesive picture of the pandemic situation.
Other scientists defended the Government response
Professor Calum Semple, SAGE, spoke out about the obstacles the Government faced in fighting COVID-19: “There’s been some bad luck with evolution of this more-transmissible new strain, but we’ve also had decades of under-investment in our NHS so it is left with no stretch capacity and a public health authority that’s been eroded as well, and that probably has had some impact on where we are today.
He further warned that the UK would see another “40,000 or 50,000 deaths” as it continued to vaccinate the population. Currently, with 302% of a vaccine expected to be available according to existing contracts, the UK will be able to meet its vaccinate the vulnerable deadline by 15 February, 2021.