Britain has recorded 59 more coronavirus deaths in an early count as the number of fatalities from the virus continues to rise – with two thirds of victims in the North West, North East and Yorkshire.
As many as 54 victims were announced in England, with the North West recording the highest death toll at 22. Wales recorded three additional fatalities. Scotland and Northern Ireland both announced one further death.
The official count, along with the number of new Covid-19 cases identified in the last 24 hours, will be released later this afternoon.
Yesterday the UK announced another 76 deaths, a seven per cent rise on last week’s 71 fatalities and more than double the number of victims posted last Tuesday, when there were 35.
On Wednesday last week a further 71 deaths linked to coronavirus were recorded in the final count, representing a 58 per cent rise in the rolling weekly average.
The spiralling statistics come amid fears the UK could face draconian new lockdown measures within days under plans for a local ‘Covid alert’ system – and after Boris Johnson is confronted with damning figures revealing the failure of tightened lockdown restrictions at a stormy Prime Minister’s Questions session.
As the number of deaths from coronavirus continued to rise:
- The leaders from four Covid-hit northern cities, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle have written to Mr Johnson begging him not to ramp up coronavirus curbs again
- Heathrow bosses prepare to trial the world’s first coronavirus passport in a bid to get passengers back into the air without the risk of quarantine;
- Scotland could announce the closure of pubs today, according to reports, in a desperate bid to stop the spread of the virus in its tracks;
- NHS laboratories say they could run out of Covid-19 testing materials in days after Swiss supplier Roche warned it was facing a ‘very significant drop’ in processing capacity at its centre in Newhaven, Sussex.
The Prime Minister was confronted this afternoon with damning statistics revealing tightened local restrictions have failed to curb the spread of coronavirus across the North of England as ministers and advisers face mounting questions over what action they will take next.
At a stormy PMQs session, Mr Johnson stressed the impact of the surge was being felt worst in the North, saying that showed the Government’s mix of tough local lockdowns and national restrictions like the Rule of Six and the 10pm pubs curfew was the right one.
The backing for ‘differentiated’ measures in England suggests that the premier is still resisting pressure from scientists for a blanket crackdown – in an apparent boost for Cabinet ministers alarmed over the threat to millions of jobs and civil liberties.
But Labour leader Keir Starmer launched a furious attack on Mr Johnson in the Commons, saying 19 out of 20 areas subjected to local curbs over the past two months have actually seen infections rise. He insisted that the measures were ‘not working’, and singled out the controversial 10pm curfew on pubs saying the government had failed to provide any ‘scientific basis’.
As chaotic infighting threatened to engulf the government, allies of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, regarded as the leading ‘hawk’ on the need to protect the economy, today denied claims he has been trying to shut ‘dove’ Michael Gove out of decisions on what areas will be subject to the most draconian restrictions. The wrangling is believed to be holding up the announcement of a new three-tier ‘traffic light’ system, intended to clear up confusion about what rules apply where in England.
In bruising clashes with Sir Keir, Mr Johnson seemed to close off the possibility of an imminent national clampdown.
‘Although the cases in the country are considerably up across the country this week on last week, the seven-day statistics show that there are now 497 cases per 100,000 in Liverpool, 522 cases per 100,000 in Manchester, 422 in Newcastle,’ he said.
‘The key point there is the local regional approach combined with the national approach remains correct because two-thirds of those admitted into hospital on Sunday were in the North West, North East and Yorkshire.’
But Sir Keir unleashed a tirade, pointing out that the government’s local lockdown were clearly ‘not working’.
‘On care homes, protective equipment, exams, testing. The Prime Minister ignores the warning signs, hurtles towards a car crash, then looks in the rear mirror, says ‘what’s all that about?’ he said.
‘It’s quite literally government in hindsight.’
Sir Keir added: ‘All the Prime Minister has to say is it is too early to say if restrictions are working but it’s obvious that something’s gone wrong here, so what’s the Prime Minister going to do about it?’
The Labour leader pointed out that in Mr Johnson’s own local authority, Hillingdon, there were currently 62 cases per 100,000, and no local restrictions.
‘But in 20 local areas across England, restrictions were imposed when infection rates were much lower. In Kirklees it was just 29 per 100,000,’ he said.
‘Local communities, Prime Minister, genuinely don’t understand these differences. Can he please explain for them?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘I wish I could pretend that everything was going to be rosy in the Midlands or indeed in London where, alas, we are also seeing infections rise.
‘That is why we need a concerted national effort, we need to follow the guidance, we need hands, face, space, get a test if you have symptoms and obey the Rule of Six.’
Sir Keir insisted that he does support the Government’s Rule of Six.
But he struck a starkly different tone on whether Labour will support the England-wide 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants, which critics say is causing more harm than good as revellers merely spill out on to the streets.
‘The Prime Minister can’t explain why an area goes into restriction, he can’t explain what the different restrictions are, he can’t explain how restrictions end – this is getting ridiculous,’ Sir Keir said.
‘Next week, this House will vote on whether to approve the 10pm rule. The Prime Minister knows that there are deeply-held views across the country in different ways on this. One question is now screaming out: is there a scientific basis for the 10pm rule?’
Mr Johnson shot back: ‘The basis on which we set out the curtailment of hospitality was the basis on which he accepted it two weeks ago – that is to reduce the spread of the virus and that is our objective.’