The UK sees record new deaths in Covid-19 as a virus variant identified in 60 countries

The UK registered a further 1,610 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, which is a record high over 24 hours since the pandemic came in 2020, but the number of new cases decreased.

The UK’s total Covid-19 death toll now stands at 91,470, with a further 33,355 new cases also reported in the last day, bringing the total number of infections to almost 3.5 million.

But the number of new cases in the past week decreased by about 22 percent, as a strict lockout announced earlier this month is beginning to take effect.

Britain is currently caught by its third and deadliest virus wave, which is accused of a new strain that is believed to be highly contagious.

The British coronavirus strain has been detected in at least 60 countries, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, 10 more than a week ago.

An estimated 12 percent of people in England had been infected with coronavirus in December last year, up from nine percent in November, according to official antibody data published on Tuesday.

One in ten people in Wales, one in 13 in Northern Ireland and one in 11 in Scotland were also estimated to have contracted the virus, according to an analysis of random blood tests published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Health managers have warned intensive care units risk being overwhelmed by the increase in cases.

The total mortality for the week ending January 8 was 45 percent higher than the five-year average, according to ONS, although it warned that the data could occur due to uneven reporting during the holiday period.

London, which has been hit particularly hard by the latest wave, noted an 85 percent increase in deaths compared to the historical average for the same week.

Cambridge University’s Medical Research Council said last week that it was believed that 30 percent of the capital’s population had been infected.

‘Signs of optimism’

Health Minister Matt Hancock, who contracted the virus last year, tweeted on Tuesday that he was self-isolating until Sunday after being told by the health service that he may have come into contact with an infected person.

Scotland’s Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Tuesday that the country would remain almost completely locked – with schools and non-essential shops closed – until at least mid-February.

The number of Covid patients in intensive care in Scotland has increased by more than 90 per cent since the beginning of the year to 260 compared with a normal intensive care unit (ICU) of around 170.

Britain is in the middle of a massive vaccination, and is fighting to inoculate as many people as possible before the new strain spreads further.

More than four million people have now had a jab, including more than half of those over 80.

The government hopes to be able to vaccinate around 15 million high-priority people across the country by 15 February and the entire adult population by the autumn.

( Jowharwith AFP)