Updated UK virus toll becomes world's second highest

Updated UK virus toll becomes world's second highest

LONDON/PARIS-Agence France-Presse
Updated UK virus toll becomes worlds second highest

Britain's death toll from the coronavirus has topped 32,000, according to an updated official count released May 5, pushing the country past Italy to become the second-most impacted after the United States.    

The new toll, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and regional health bodies, has not yet been incorporated into the government's daily figures, which records the current number of deaths as 29,427.    

That is still higher than Italy, which on May 5 said it has recorded 29,316 virus fatalities to date, but far short of the US where nearly 69,000 have died in the pandemic.    

However, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged against trying to make reliable international comparisons.   

"There are different ways of counting deaths... we now publish data that includes all deaths in all settings and not all countries do that," he said at the daily Downing Street press conference.    

"Can you reliably know that all countries are measuring in the same way? And it also depends on how good, frankly, countries are in gathering their statistics."    

Raab called the lives lost "a massive tragedy" and "something in this country, on this scale, in this way, that we've never seen before".

May 5's updated statistics, showing 32,313 total deaths by around April 24, means Britain has probably had the highest official death numbers in Europe for days.            

The toll has jumped dramatically on several occasions as the ONS -- which tallies all deaths -- has regularly updated its count.    

The agency releases figures weekly, covers periods up to two weeks prior and includes coronavirus deaths in care homes and the community.    

Until late last month, the health ministry's daily tallies only counted those who died in hospital after having tested positive for COVID-19.

Even after it began to include all fatalities with the virus listed on the death certificate, its totals have been far short of the later ONS totals.

They have risen dramatically as the extent of the pandemic's impact on care homes has emerged.    

Nearly 6,400 people with coronavirus have died in care homes in England alone, with numbers still rising even as the wider outbreak slows.    

More than 2,000 of those were reported in the last week of April -- when Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain was "past the peak".

Meanwhile the ONS has also recorded a total of around 42,000 "excess deaths" -- how many more people have died in total than would normally be expected -- in the past five weeks.    

It suggests Britain's true death toll from the virus may be even higher.    

"I don't think we'll get a real verdict on how well countries have done until the pandemic is over," Raab added.    

Britain, in its seventh week of an economically crippling lockdown, is trying to implement a new contact tracing strategy so it can ease the measures.    

Johnson is expected to set out his plan to lift the stringent social distancing regime on May 10, according to media reports.

Global cases pass 3.6 mln

At least 254,532 people have died of the novel coronavirus since the epidemic surfaced in China late last year, according to an AFP tally at 1900 GMT on May 5 based on official sources.    

There have been more than 3,629,160 officially recorded cases spanning 195 countries and territories.    

The United States is the worst-hit country, with 70,115 deaths out of 1,193,027 cases. Britain follows with 29,427, then Italy with 29,315 deaths, Spain with 25,613 and France with 25,531.            

Regional leaders push back against Chancellor Angela Merkel's pleas for prudence, with the biggest state Bavaria preempting planned talks on May 6 by saying it will reopen its restaurants and hotels this month.            

Hong Kong announces plans to reopen schools, cinemas, bars and beauty parlours from May 8.    

In California, the governor announces some retailers including bookshops, florists and clothing stores will be allowed to reopen at the end of the week.            

Oil prices rally amid a further easing of lockdowns in the United States and Europe, with a barrel of crude reaching just over $30 for the first time since mid-April.            

Russia cements its place as the European country reporting the highest number of new infections, with a total of over 155,000.         

India embarks on a "massive" operation calling up passenger jets and naval ships to bring back some of the hundreds of thousands of nationals stuck abroad.            

The European swimming championships are postponed a year until May 2021 because of the pandemic.

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