Doctors and people robbed by Covid have described the 200,000th deaths from the virus in the UK as a “tragic milestone” and have called for the return of infection control measures, including wearing masks and improving sick pay, amid of concern about increasing cases and new variants.
Prof Philip Banfield, Chairman of the Board of the British Medical Association, said: “This appalling loss of life should be an important reminder that Covid-19 has not gone away and remains a serious threat to public health.”
Nursing home representatives said reaching the historic death toll was “heartbreaking.”
With Covid hospitalizations in the UK having tripled since late May, Jo Goodman, co-founder of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign, which represents more than 6,500 families, said: “Two hundred thousand deaths is a tragedy and another another devastating milestone in the government’s handling of the pandemic.
“Four hundred and fifty-four people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid last week, yet the government is refusing to take even basic steps to protect people from the virus. By making people pay for tests, not imposing enough sick pay or taking measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in hospitals, the government is effectively throwing the most vulnerable in our society to the wolves.”
Prof Rowland Kao, the chair of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh, predicted “much more stressful conditions” in the autumn and winter and called for greater precautions.
“It’s not helpful to treat it as if it’s gone and by doing this we’re ensuring that a significant but relatively low number of infections persist,” Kao said. “As we enter the fall and winter and we expect more flu and more Covid, there is a high risk that we will face much more stressful conditions. Anything we can do to keep things down right now is helpful. I mean testing, isolating if it’s positive and respecting physical distancing, especially in high-risk environments. FFP2 masks in those settings would be a good idea, but that’s also a personal choice.”
Jim McManus, the president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, called on people to get their booster shots when invited, saying the 200,000 death milestone was “tragic.”
The government said on Wednesday it was “working hard to reach those people who had not yet been vaccinated against Covid, including using walk-in and mobile vaccination clinics … getting the vaccine.”
Data from the World Health Organization shows that the UK has the seventh highest total death toll in the world and the worst of all European countries except Russia. According to WHO figures, the number of deaths per capita is better than Italy and Belgium and much of Eastern Europe, but worse than France, Spain and Germany.
Next Thursday, Heather Hallet, the chair of the public inquiry into Covid-19 in the UK, will make her opening statement, outlining a timetable and how she plans to conduct the inquiry.
Helen Wildbore, the director of the Relatives and Residents Association, which represents care home users, said the 200,000 death milestone was “another reminder of the government’s poor management of the pandemic”.
Scotland, the US and England are the three countries with the highest proportion of Covid deaths among care home residents, in a list of 21 countries analyzed by an international network of academics.
“From the neglect of the social care sector during the first wave to people living in care, the only group still subject to restrictions, while the rest of the country is back to normal, the elderly have been abandoned by precisely the systems designed to protect their rights,” Wildbore said. “Now that a public inquiry is underway, we will push for the answers they deserve and make sure their voices are heard.”
David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The question that remains is whether this will remain a serious disease for people with obesity and comorbidities, despite being vaccinated. At the moment it seems vaccine to do a pretty good job on them.
“The pandemic is tragic because so many people have died around the world, but at the same time we have been lucky enough to have a vaccine so quickly and hopefully everyone will benefit from the vaccine [boosters]†