UK coronavirus death toll rises by almost 500 in 24 hours

The number of people in the UK to die within 28 days of a positive Covid test now stands at 47,742. Separately, 60,051 deaths with Covid-19  on the death certificate have been recorded since the onset of the pandemic.

The UK has registered 492 new coronavirus deaths over the latest 24-hour period, according to new government data.

This is the highest figure since 19 May, when 500 deaths were reported nationwide.

According to the NHS, one of the victims was aged 13 years old. Of the 302 deaths recorded in England, all except 12 had known underlying health conditions.

The highest number of hospital deaths was recorded in the northwest (93), followed by the northeast and Yorkshire (66).

A further 25,177 new infections were reported across the UK, data from the Department for Health and Social Care shows, bringing the nationwide total to 1,099,059.

The new figures come as MPs voted to back the new four-week coronavirus lockdown in England, after Boris Johnson warned of an “existential threat” to the NHS if action was not taken.

Ahead of the Commons vote on Wednesday, the prime minister said the government was not seeking to impose the new controls “lightly”.

But he told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions that it was essential that they took action now to curb the spread of the disease.

With Labour supporting the new restrictions, the government comfortably passed the vote with a majority of 478 – though 38 Tory MPs defied the party whip to vote against the new restrictions.

Prior to the vote, the PM had urged all MPs to put aside “party political wrangling and point-scoring” and to come together to drive down the infection rate.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said that in ordinary times the measures outlined would be “unimaginable”.

He told the Commons: “Ultimately this comes to a very significant judgment. It comes to a judgment about how we best-manage a nation and lead a nation through an incredibly difficult period, with a pandemic of a virus which exists only to multiply.

“So in ordinary times, these measures would be unimaginable, but these are not ordinary times. It’s a virus in circulation that feeds off the human contact that makes life worth living and we must act to thwart its deadly march to protect our NHS and to save countless lives.”

The new restrictions will be implemented from midnight, as the NHS in England moves into its highest alert – level 4 – amid a continuing rise in coronavirus patients needing hospital care.

Earlier in the day, the head of NHS England said the service was ready to “fire the starting gun” whenever a vaccine became available.

Chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said GPs will be put on standby from December should vaccine become available before Christmas.

However, he said the “expectation” was that any vaccination programme would begin in the new year – pending positive results from the vaccine clinical trials.

Meanwhile, the chief of the UK vaccine taskforce has said she is more than 50 per cent confident that all vulnerable people will have been vaccinated against coronavirus by Easter or early summer, with GPs across the country now prepping to administer a Covid-19 jab over the Christmas period.

Kate Bingham told MPs that there was a “very high” chance that a vaccine would be effective in reducing illness and mortality, but said it was unlikely that it would be able to entirely eradicate the virus.

She said that data from the Oxford and Pfizer/BioNTech candidates would be available by the end of the year, with millions of doses from the two leading vaccines set to be rolled out across the UK as soon as regulatory approval is granted.

“If I put on my rose-tinted specs, I would hope that we will see positive interim data from both Oxford and from Pfizer/BioNTech in early December and if we get that then I think we have got the possibility of deploying by the year-end,” she said during Wednesday’s Science and Technology Committee meeting.

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