'It's really bleak': UK COVID death toll won't fall substantially for a few weeks, Sage adviser warns

George Martin
·3 min read
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/01/12: A woman walks past the Government's 'Stay Home, Save Lives' Covid-19 publicity campaign poster in London, as the number of cases of the mutated variant of the SARS-Cov-2 virus continues to spread around the country. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A woman walks past a 'Stay Home, Save Lives' sign in London. (Getty)

The UK’s COVID death toll will not fall for a few weeks despite lockdown measures and the vaccine rollout, a government adviser has warned.

Professor Andrew Hayward, is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) – both of which advise the government on its response to the pandemic.

Hayward told BBC News on Tuesday afternoon that he believes although infections are currently falling among younger people, transmission rates among older age groups remain high.

“We have seen a clear decline in the number of new infections, particularly in the younger age groups,” he said.

Ambulances sit outside the emergency department of the Royal London Hospital in London, England, on January 19, 2021. Heath Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that there are currently more people in hospital in the UK with covid-19 than at any time during the pandemic, with a patient with coronavirus being admitted to hospital every 30 seconds. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Ambulances sit outside the emergency department of the Royal London Hospital. (Getty)

“Unfortunately, the decline has not been as marked in the older age groups.

“Those age groups are the ones that will comprise the majority of hospitalisations so it still may be a few weeks before we see death rates coming down substantially.”

Hayward said the UK currently has “one of the worst coronavirus problems in the world” and warned that infection rates may continue to be high for weeks to come.

“It’s really bleak news,” Hayward added.

“We have one of the worst coronavirus problems in the world at the moment and we need to do everything that we can to bring rates down.

“It’s encouraging that they are coming down but we need to bring them down as fast as possible.”

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It comes as the UK reported the highest number of daily deaths since the pandemic started on Tuesday, as new data showed one in eight people are likely to have had the virus in England.

Public Health England (PHE) said a further 1,610 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 - the highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since the outbreak began.

The new record brings the UK total for those who have died after contracting coronavirus to 91,470.

However, the true number of those who have lost their lives to the virus has already reached the 108,000 mark, once cases where COVID-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate is taken into account.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, PHE's medical director, said the country should be braced for further deaths and urged people to keep to the current social restrictions.

"Each death is a tragedy and the number of COVID-19 related deaths within 28 days of a positive test will continue for some time throughout this second wave," she said.

"Whilst there are some early signs that show our sacrifices are working, we must continue to strictly abide by the measures in place. By reducing our contacts and staying at home we will see a fall in the number of infections over time."

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