British virus death toll now world’s third-worst
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by Alice Ritchie, James Pheby, Joe Jackson
Britain’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped to 26,097 on Wednesday — the second-highest in Europe behind Italy and third-highest in the world — as the government took into account fatalities outside hospital, including care homes, for the first time.
The increase came after surprise news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had become a father again at age 55, several months earlier than expected, and just weeks after he was taken to hospital with COVID-19.
Downing Street announced that his partner, Carrie Symonds, 32, gave birth to a healthy baby boy, prompting messages of congratulation from across the political spectrum at home and abroad.
The rare good news was soured however by the additional 4,419 deaths in the overall coronavirus death toll, just as Johnson, who returned to work on Monday, is under pressure to ease a month-long lockdown.
Until now, Britain had reported only deaths of people who had tested positive for COVID-19 in hospital but there has been mounting concern about high numbers of unreported victims in the wider community.
On Tuesday, the Office for National Statistics said deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending April 17 were running at roughly double the five-year average and were the highest weekly total since 1993.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Wednesday said there were an additional 3,811 deaths included in the outbreak since the start of March, on top of figures from the last 24 hours.
“They don’t represent a sudden surge in the number of deaths,” he told reporters.
According to an AFP tally from official sources at 1300 GMT on Wednesday, Britain has now leapfrogged the tolls in France and Spain and is the second-worst affected country in Europe, behind Italy’s 27,359 deaths.
The United States has the world’s worst death toll with 58,355. (AFP)