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Coronavirus: UK records more than 40,000 deaths

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media captionHealth Secretary Matt Hancock: "The R is closer to 1 in the South West and in the North West"

The UK's coronavirus death toll has passed more than 40,000, according to the latest government figures.

A total of 40,261 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for the virus, up 357 from Thursday.

The UK is only the second country - after the US with 108,000 deaths - to pass the milestone.

In March, the UK's chief scientific adviser said limiting deaths to 20,000 would be a "good outcome".

At the daily Downing Street briefing BBC health editor Hugh Pym asked about this assessment, to which Health Secretary Matt Hancock replied that it had been "a time of sorrow for us all".

Each death represents "a family that will never be the same again", he said, adding: "My heart goes out to them all and it makes me redouble my determination to deal with this virus."

Also at the briefing:

  • Mr Hancock appealed to people not to attend large demonstrations with more than six people, saying he was "appalled" by the killing of George Floyd in the US but "coronavirus remains a real threat"
  • All hospital visitors and outpatients will have to wear face coverings and all staff will have to wear surgical masks at all times, in all areas, the health secretary said
  • He also urged people who had recovered from coronavirus to donate their blood plasma to help a research trial

'We love and miss him so much'

The BBC has been collecting the personal stories of some of the families who have lost loved ones since the UK recorded its first coronavirus death three months ago - like that of Adam Brown, a 30-year-old with learning disabilities who died on 29 April.

His mother, Maureen, said despite the efforts of medical staff, he "died alone and afraid", adding: "We love and miss him so much."

Poornima Nair, a GP, wife and mother, died at 56. "It's unbelievable," her practice manager said. "Her heart was with the NHS."

When 68-year-old Edinburgh taxi driver Gordon "Gogs" Reid died, friends who could not attend his funeral lined the road outside his favourite pub. "Everyone that knew him just loved him," said his daughter, Leemo Goudie.

Remembering coronavirus victims

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Behind the US and the UK with the highest reported coronavirus deaths, are Italy, previously Europe's worst-hit country, with 33,600 deaths, and Brazil, where more than 34,000 people have died.

But experts have warned full global comparisons may take months, with countries using different methods to calculate the death toll.

Friday's UK death toll represented only one of the ways the government counts coronavirus deaths, focusing on people who have died after a positive Covid-19 test.

Figures published by the UK statistics agencies on Tuesday show an even higher toll.

Up to the week ending 22 May, 48,106 people had died in the UK with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate.

Did policy mistakes cause the high UK death toll?

It is in many ways a shocking figure. The first recorded UK death with coronavirus was in early March - now in the first week of June the total has hit 40,000.

Adjusting for the size of the population, the UK has the second highest number of deaths in Europe after Belgium, though there has to be some caution with comparisons because of different methods of calculation.

There has already been much debate about whether the UK figures reflect policy mistakes early on.

Some argue the lockdown should have happened sooner, with mass spectator events in mid-March such as the Cheltenham racing festival cancelled rather than being allowed to go ahead.

Others have criticised the failure to continue with community testing and tracing of contacts in March.

But there are academics who argue that every European country was taken by surprise by the rapid spread of the virus and it is too early to make a comprehensive analysis of each one's performance.

Westminster and the devolved administrations point out that thanks to intensive preparations the NHS coped with the surge of coronavirus patients.

The crisis may have contributed to a greater loss of life from other causes too, with 61,895 more deaths recorded than would be expected for this time of year, between the beginning of the outbreak and 22 May.

The Office of National Statistics has said this may be due to a delay in care for other conditions, such as dementia, asthma and diabetes. Others may be unidentified coronavirus cases, it said.

The UK's population of older people has been worst affected by Covid-19, with over-80s being 70 times more likely to die than people under 40.

Concerns have also been raised over the impact on ethnic minority communities, with people with Bangladeshi ethnicity more than twice as likely to die from coronavirus than white Britons, taking age and sex into account.

But the death rate is falling, with the most recent review of death certificates showing the lowest number of coronavirus-related deaths since March.

And a national survey suggests the number of people infected with coronavirus in England has fallen, from 8,000 a day last week to 5,600 a day.

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