The UK’s coronavirus death toll has risen by 207 – the highest number of fatalities reported for six months.
It is the first time that more than 200 deaths have been reported in a single day since 9 March, when 231 people were recorded as losing their lives within 28 days of testing positive for the virus.
With the number of new daily infections having mostly sat above 30,000 in recent weeks, after rising to a high of nearly 55,000 on 17 July, there has been a slow but steady climb since June in the number of new deaths reported.
While the seven-day average for the number of deaths reported daily rose to a high of 115 on Friday, after sitting in single digits until mid-June, the level of fatalities still remains far below that seen when infections were allowed to soar to similar levels last winter.
Scientists and politicians have mainly credited this reduction in death and serious illness to the arrival of vaccines, which have been shown to vastly reduce the chance of becoming seriously ill with the virus, even when infected with the Delta variant.
The new variant, first discovered in India, has been found to be more transmissible and carry nearly double the risk of hospitalisation among unvaccinated people than the Alpha variant – which drove the UK’s devastating second wave.
According to the latest government figures, nearly 91 million vaccine doses have been administered so far across the UK. Nearly 43 million people have now had two doses.
This week, The Independent reported that up to 600,000 people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine were feared to have missed or even rejected their second jab in recent weeks.
One doctor said that “vaccination does not seem a priority to some people any more”, while another estimated that “roughly 10 per cent” of over-40s have not returned to his clinic for a follow-up jab.
Meanwhile, a further rise in cases is expected as schools in England and Wales return this week.
In Scotland, where classes began between two to three weeks ago, Nicola Sturgeon warned on Wednesday of an “extremely concerning” surge in new infections, even when taking into account the expected rise.
New cases in Scotland have hit several all-time highs in recent days, exceeding 7,200 on Thursday. UK-wide figures show a steady rise in new reported infections throughout the first four weeks of August.
Warning the “next few days are crucial”, Ms Sturgeon urged people to get vaccinated and cut down on socialising as she cautioned it would be “grossly irresponsible” for any government to rule out further restrictions.
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