Figures showing the UK COVID death toll passing 52,000 have been branded “shocking” by a government adviser.
Dr Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of Sage, reacted to data showing another 598 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 52,745.
Farrar tweeted: “Shocking – we must not come to accept this, become sanguine, or accept and assume it is inevitable.
Shocking - we must not come to accept this, become sanguine, or accept & assume it is inevitable. This is shocking COVID19 in UK - 1,601 people admitted to hospital, 15,830 people in hospital, 1,391 needing a ventilator, 598 deaths reported today. https://t.co/mbxHM5gRAv
— Jeremy Farrar (@JeremyFarrar) November 17, 2020
“This is shocking COVID-19 in UK – 1,601 people admitted to hospital, 15,830 people in hospital, 1,391 needing a ventilator, 598 deaths reported today.”
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where COVID-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 68,000 deaths involving the disease in the UK.
The figures come as reports suggest the government is planning to temporarily relax COVID restrictions over the festive period.
According to The Times, ministers are mulling over proposals to allow two or three household bubbles to mix for a few days at Christmas.
Watch: Weekly COVID deaths rise by 1,937 in England and Wales
Current national lockdown regulations in England end on 2 December, but health secretary Matt Hancock hinted this week that they could continue if cases remain high.
But Downing Street said on Tuesday that Boris Johnson wanted to “ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year”.
With England's national lockdown ending at the start of December, hopes that a vaccine could start to bring an end to the pandemic continue to grow.
A new jab from US firm Moderna was shown in early data to be almost 95% effective in protecting against COVID-19.
The health secretary told a Downing Street press conference this week that “great advances in medical science are coming to the rescue” of countries battling the coronavirus pandemic, but admitted the UK had only secured 5m doses of Moderna’s jab.
The UK has already secured 40m doses of a vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, which uses the same technology as Moderna and should be in the UK before Christmas.
Meanwhile, a vaccine from Oxford University and UK pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is due to report in the coming days or weeks. The UK has secured 100m doses of that vaccine.
Watch: These are the exceptions for going outside during England's second national lockdown