'We did everything we could' - Boris Johnson marks sombre death toll as lives lost to coronavirus officially top 100,000

Boris Johnson said he is “deeply sorry” for every life lost to coronavirus as the UK’s official death toll topped 100,000.

Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 6:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 6:29 pm

The Prime Minister insisted the Government “did everything that we could to minimise suffering and minimise loss of life in this country as a result of the pandemic”.

But he faced questions over why, when in April last year 20,000 deaths was described by the Government's chief science adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance as “a good outcome”, the grim figure now stood at five times this.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the milestone a “national tragedy”.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Photo: PA

He said: “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.”

While addressing the nation from Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: “It is 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.”

And he pledged that once the crisis was over “we will come together as a nation to remember everyone we lost”, and he said: “We will make sure that we learn the lessons and reflect and prepare.”

He said the Government "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".

A further 1,631 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded today, bringing the UK's total death toll to 100,162.

The national figure comes at the same time as in Bradford, more than 1,000 deaths were recorded in the district alone. In Yorkshire’s hospitals, 7,119 coronavirus deaths have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic, with 60 of those being added today.

Some 1,001 electric candles were lit around the steps of Bradford City Hall today for the 1.001 deaths from Covid-19 related causes. The City Hall flag will be lowered to half-mast and hospitals joined with lights at their entrances or in the chapel at Airedale.

Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “This is a very sad milestone. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have lost their lives to Covid-19 and with the families and friends who have lost loved ones.

“We must take a moment to pause, reflect and remember not only the lives sadly lost, but also to thank those working in the NHS helping patients suffering from the effects of the virus.”

Although the official Government figures reached 100,000 today, a more comprehensive tally hit the sombe number on January 7.

While the Government measure is counted by the number of people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, other data is gathered on the number of people who had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate.

This counts every single death that has involved coronavirus in the UK, and is regarded as a more accurate indicator of what might have led to someone’s death.

By contrast, the Government’s method does not include people who died more than 28 days after testing positive – even if those people spent that entire period in hospital and had Covid-19 marked on their death certificate.

It also excludes anyone who did not have a positive Covid-19 test.

Because of this, it undercounts the number of Covid-19 deaths that occurred during the first months of the pandemic, when only a minority of people were being tested.

The cumulative death toll based on death certificates currently stands at 108,084.

And when taking into account deaths that are known to have occurred since the publication of the latest statistics on death certificates, the overall toll is likely to be nearing 120,000.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the toll was “heart-breaking” and warned there is still “a tough period ahead”.

He said: “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.

“We’re undertaking a huge national effort to vaccinate the most vulnerable people in our society, with over 6.5m 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.”

But Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “Unfortunately we’re going to see quite a lot more deaths over the next few weeks before the effects of the vaccines begin to be felt.”