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UK records second-highest daily COVID death toll since start of pandemic

Written by on 7 January 2021

The UK has recorded its second-highest number of daily deaths since the start of the pandemic – 1,162.

The number of fatalities is up on yesterday when 1,041 people were reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus, according to government figures.

It is the second-highest daily COVID-19 death toll ever – beaten only by the number on 21 April, which was 1,224.

Today is only the 11th time daily deaths have surpassed 1,000.

But the latest case numbers are down by almost 10,000 on yesterday from 62,322 on Wednesday to 52,618 on Thursday.

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The majority of the deaths and cases reported on Thursday were in England – 1,004 and 46,841 respectively.

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The next-highest numbers were in Scotland, where 2,649 new cases were reported alongside 78 further deaths.

Wales confirmed another 1,718 positive test results in the past 24 hours and 63 further deaths.

Northern Ireland recorded another 1,410 cases and 17 deaths.

It comes as GPs roll out the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for the first time.

The government has committed to vaccinating more than 13 million people in the top four priority groups by the middle of February.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised the rollout of vaccines to GP surgeries today

But there have been concerns about the decision to delay second doses of the vaccine for up to 12 weeks after England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said there was a “real worry” it may result in an “escaped mutant”.

One in 50 people in England now have the virus, according to the latest official figures, with some NHS trusts in London and the South East at risk of being overwhelmed.

Lindsey Izard, who works in intensive care at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London, said staff are so stretched that they are having to make compromises on her ward.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today warned the epidemic is “out of control” and said Britain was in a “race against time” to bring case numbers down.

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Analysis: Daily deaths aren’t as alarming given backlog – but hospital admissions are the real concern
By Ed Conway, economics and data editor

The latest COVID-19 data is out and once again the headline number on deaths is depressingly high – over 1,000 for a second successive day.

But once again it’s worth being a bit cautious about it since it contains a backlog of data from deaths that occurred over the previous few weeks.

The underlying picture is still that deaths are climbing steadily, but are not skyrocketing. This is not a good news story, but it is somewhat less alarming than if one focuses on those daily figures.

The case numbers today actually provided some better news, a slowing in case growth if one adjusts for the “bank holiday effect”.

Available hospital beds have dropped to their lowest since this wave began
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Available hospital beds have dropped to their lowest since this wave began

It’ll take some time, though, to know whether this is a genuine plateauing or a dip before further growth.

However, the real concern is the latest data on hospital admissions, which are up sharply. The bit that stood out for me concerns the availability of hospital beds.

According to the latest NHS England data released today, the number of unoccupied hospital beds available in general and acute wards dropped in early January to the lowest level since this wave began.

Across England there are 6,500 unoccupied beds.

The number of COVID patients accounts for well over a quarter of all those in hospital beds; this time last month the proportion was one in seven.