U.K. Hospitals Like War Zones as COVID-19 Death Toll Approaches 100,000

LONDON (Reuters) —
A delivery man wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) carries a box in front of ambulances, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, at the Royal London Hospital in London, Tuesday. (Reuters/Hannah McKay)

Some British hospitals look like war zones with doctors struggling to cope with an influx of patients infected with COVID-19, the government’s top scientific adviser said, as the death toll rose by a record daily amount towards 100,000.

The United Kingdom’s official death toll is 91,470 – Europe’s worst figure and the world’s fifth worst after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico. Deaths rose by a record amount on Tuesday.

As hospital admissions soared, the British government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said there was enormous pressure on the National Health Service with doctors and nurses battling to give people sufficient care.

“It may not look like it when you go for a walk in the park, but when you go into a hospital, this is very, very bad at the moment with enormous pressure and in some cases it looks like a war zone in terms of the things that people are having to deal with,” Vallance told Sky.

“There have been huge numbers of cases, the NHS is under enormous pressure at the moment,” said Vallance, formerly head of research at GlaxoSmithKline and a professor of medicine at University College London.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the death numbers were horrendous but that it was not the time to look back at the government’s possible mismanagement of the crisis.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticized for reacting too slowly to the crisis, failing to supply sufficient protective equipment and for bungling the testing system, although the United Kingdom has been swift to roll out a vaccine.

The British government reported a record rise in deaths on Tuesday with 1,610 people dying within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. Currently 37,946 people are in the hospital with COVID, 3,916 of them on ventilation.

There have been calls for a public inquiry from some doctors and bereaved families into the handling of the crisis, but Johnson has resisted this.

“Every single death is deeply tragic,” Patel told LBC when asked why the death toll was so large. “There’s no one factor as to why we have such a horrendous and tragic death rate.”

“I don’t think this is the time to talk about mismanagement,” Patel said when asked by the BBC if the government had mismanaged the crisis.

Ministers say that while they have not got everything right, they were making quick decisions in the worst public health crisis for a century and that they have learned from mistakes and followed scientific advice.

Loosening the U.K. lockdown too soon, though, would be a mistake, Vallance said.

“The lesson is every time you release it too quickly you get an upswing and you can see that right across the world,” he said.

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