Boris Johnson says ‘we did everything we could’ as UK coronavirus death toll passes 100,000

Luke O'Reilly
·4-min read
 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson offered his “deepest condolences” to the families of coronavirus victims as Government figured showed the UK death toll has passed 100,000, saying: “We did everything we could”.

The Prime Minister told a Downing Street briefing that it was “hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic: the years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended and for so many relatives the missed chance to even say goodbye”.

He vowed that as the country came out of the crisis “we will come together as a nation to remember everyone we lost and to honour the selfless heroism of all those on the front line who gave their lives to save others”

A further 1,631 deaths of people who had tested positive for coronavirus within 28 days were recorded on Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 100,162.

Some 25,000 of those deaths have taken place since the start of the year, in a stark illustration of how the more infectious variant of the virus, first identified in Kent, has ripped across the country.

Mr Johnson said: “I think on this day I should just really repeat that I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost and, of course, as I was Prime Minister I take full responsibility for everything that the Government has done.

“What I can tell you is that we truly did everything we could, and continue to do everything that we can, to minimise loss of life and to minimise suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage, and a very, very difficult crisis for our country, and we will continue to do that, just as every government that is affected by this crisis around the world is continuing to do the same.”

Following the Prime Minister’s comments, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said it was a “very sad day”.

Presenting slides of coronavirus data to the Downing Street press conference, he said the number of people testing positive for coronavirus was “still at a very high number, but it has been coming down”.
He cautioned that Office for National Statistics data demonstrates a slower decrease, adding: “I think we need to be careful we do not relax too early”.

There were 20,089 new lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK reported on Tuesday, representing a 26.4 drop from the same time last week.

But Prof Whitty said the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in the UK was still an “incredibly high number”.

This had “flattened off” and was not still rising overall, he said, but was “substantially above the peak in April”.
Prof Whitty said it looked like hospital figures were coming down slightly in areas such as London and the South East and the East of England, but in some areas levels were “still not convincingly reducing”.

Aerial view of graves dug to cope with pandemic deaths in Sutton ColdfieldGetty Images
Aerial view of graves dug to cope with pandemic deaths in Sutton ColdfieldGetty Images

He said that deaths of people who had a positive coronavirus test looked as if it was flattening out at a very high level.
Prof Whitty warned that “the number of people dying per day will come down relatively slowly over the next two weeks”.

In a statement, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the grim milestone was “heart-breaking” and warned there is still “a tough period ahead”.

“My thoughts are with each and every person who has lost a loved one – behind these heart-breaking figures are friends, families and neighbours.

“I know how hard the last year has been, but I also know how strong the British public’s determination is and how much we have all pulled together to get through this."

Mr Hancock added that the vaccine offered a way out of the pandemic.

“We’re undertaking a huge national effort to vaccinate the most vulnerable people in our society, with over 6.5 million jabs across the UK to date, and thanks to the brilliance of our scientists and clinicians we know more today about this terrible new virus and how to beat it", he said.

“The vaccine offers the way out, but we cannot let up now and we sadly still face a tough period ahead. The virus is still spreading and we’re seeing over 3,500 people per day being admitted into hospital.

“The single most important thing we must all do now is stay at home to save lives and protect our NHS.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government’s measure of the coronavirus death toll passing 100,000 is a “national tragedy”.

In a statement, Sir Keir said: “This is a national tragedy and a terrible reminder of all that we have lost as a country.

“We must never become numb to these numbers or treat them as just statistics. Every death is a loved one, a friend, a neighbour, a partner or a colleague. It is an empty chair at the dinner table.

“To all those that are mourning, we must promise to learn the lessons of what went wrong and build a more resilient country. That day will come and we will get there together.

“But for now we must remember those that we have lost and be vigilant in the national effort to stay at home, protect our NHS and vaccinate Britain.”

Reporting by PA

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