UK joins four other nations with over 20,000 Covid-19 deaths

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03: An NHS sign sits on the outside of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital on January 3, 2018 in London, England. Hospitals in the UK have been advised to postpone all non-urgent operations until the end of January as the NHS struggles to cope with the surge in patients over the winter period. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Britain is fourth European country after Italy, Spain, and France to breach the milestone, excluding figures of deaths in nursing homes that are likely to number in thousands.

Britain’s confirmed tally of hospital deaths among people with the coronavirus has topped 20,000, making it the fifth country to reach the grim milestone.

The government said 20,319 people with Covid-19 have died in British hospitals, an increase of 813 from the day before.

The figure doesn’t include deaths in nursing homes, which are likely to number in the thousands.

Signs outbreak has peaked

Britain is the fourth European country after Italy, Spain and France to reach over 20,000 deaths. The United States has recorded more than 50,000 coronavirus fatalities.

There are signs the UK outbreak has peaked, with the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus declining.

But the government said it’s too soon to ease a nationwide lockdown imposed on March 23 and extended to May 7.

Still, some businesses are planning to reopen after implementing social distancing measures. Several automakers say they will restart production in May.

Back in mid-March the government’s chief scientific adviser said that keeping the death toll below 20,000 would be a “good outcome”.

The government is facing growing criticism over its response to the new coronavirus pandemic as the death toll rises.

Britain was slower than European peers to impose a lockdown and is struggling to raise its testing capacity.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still recovering after falling seriously ill with the virus earlier this month and in his absence, government ministers have been struggling to explain high death rates, limited testing and shortages of protective equipment for medical workers and carers.

Health Ministry data published on Saturday showed that 28,760 tests were carried out on 24 April.

That is likely to put further pressure on the government given its target of hitting 100,000 tests per day by the end of April is just days away.

There are concerns that limited testing could mean a slow exit from lockdown and a worse hit for Britain’s economy, the world’s fifth largest.

Full effect of pandemic

Earlier on Saturday, Stephen Powis, the medical director of the National Health Service (NHS) in England, declined to give a new number for how many deaths could now be expected, but told BBC Radio:

“It will take some time, it may take many years, before the full effect of the pandemic is known in this country.”

Striking a positive note, Powis claimed that the NHS had not been overwhelmed in the way that hospitals in some other countries have been. Healthcare providers were now preparing to ramp up non-coronavirus treatments, such as restarting planned surgeries.

“As we are now beginning to see a decline, a decrease, in the number of patients with coronavirus, it is absolutely the time to start building up our services again,” he said.