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UK's COVID-19 death toll tops 40,000, worst in Europe

Video credit: Reuters Studio
Published on May 12, 2020 - Duration: 02:12s

UK's COVID-19 death toll tops 40,000, worst in Europe

The United Kingdom's COVID-19 death toll topped 38,000 as of early May, by far the worst yet reported in Europe, raising more questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Lauren Anthony reports.

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UK's COVID-19 death toll tops 40,000, worst in Europe

The UK's COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 40,000 -- making it the worst-affected country in Europe by far.

The new numbers are raising even more questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson's handling of the crisis.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics for England and Wales brought the UK's official death toll above 38,000 as of May 3 - according to a Reuters tally that also includes Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Since then, at least 2,250 people have died from COVID-19 in English hospitals.

The data comes just a day after Johnson unveiled a gradual plan to get Britain back to work.

"People should stay alert by working from home if you can, limiting contact with other people, keeping distance if you go out - two meters apart, where possible, washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering when you're in enclosed spaces and where it is difficult to be socially distanced, for example in some shops or on public transport." His attempt to slowly ease the coronavirus lockdown has prompted confusion.

Opposition leader Keir Starmer accused Johnson on Monday (May 11) of giving the public mixed messages.

And the leaders of the devolved nations - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have chosen not to budge on their restrictions.

They say advice given by Johnson only applies to England - and told people to continue to stay at home.

The UK's rising death toll has upped pressure on Johnson.

Opposition parties say he was too slow to impose a lockdown, too slow to introduce mass testing, and too slow to provide enough protective equipment to hospitals.

The data has also painted a grim picture of the situation in care homes, which now account for a third of all COVID-19 deaths in England and Wales.

Unlike the daily death toll announced by the government - Tuesday's figures include suspected deaths from COVID-19 - the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Ministers dislike comparisons of the headline death toll because Britainโ€™s performance is in part down to the speed with which it has published comprehensive data.

Back in March, Britain's chief scientific adviser said keeping deaths below 20,000 would be a "good outcome." A number that the UK has now far exceeded.

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