UK Covid deaths reach highest level since February 2021

New total is the highest recorded in the country since February 24, 2021

File photo: A patient is pushed on a trolley after arriving in an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in the Whitechapel area of east London, January 6, 2022. AP

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The UK has recorded 438 further deaths from coronavirus — the highest number of daily fatalities since February 2021.

The country also reported a further 94,432 cases, down from 120,821 a week ago, but higher than at the weekend, when infections hit their lowest levels in a month.

Tuesday’s figures are often higher due to a lag in reporting.

A total of 19,450 people were in hospital with Covid-19 in the UK as of January 17, the latest government figures show.

This is down 2 per cent week-on-week, though the total has risen slightly in the most recent two days.

During the second wave of the disease, the number of hospital patients peaked at 39,254 on January 18, 2021.

There were 1,892 Covid-19 hospital admissions on January 14, the latest UK-wide figure available, down 5 per cent week-on-week.

Admissions during the second wave peaked at 4,583 on January 12, 2021.

The latest Covid death and infection figures come as Britain’s health secretary says the wave of Omicron infections in England has passed its peak.

Sajid Javid said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the Plan B measures will be “substantially reduced” next week in light of data showing falling case numbers and hospital admissions.

Government ministers are expected to meet over the coming days to review the situation before a final decision is announced, with Plan B set to expire on January 26.

Global health leaders also said on Tuesday that the Omicron wave may have peaked in some countries.

But the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that “no country is out of the woods yet” and it is not time to “give up and wave the white flag”.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, also said that the pandemic is “nowhere near over” and added that new variants are likely to emerge.

“Omicron continues to sweep the world, last week, there were over 18 million reported cases,” Dr Tedros told a press briefing.

“The number of deaths remains stable for the moment but we are concerned about the impact Omicron is having on already exhausted health workers and overburdened health systems.

“In some countries, cases seem to have peaked, which gives hope that the worst of this latest wave is done with, but no country is out of the woods yet.

“I remain particularly concerned about many countries that have low vaccination rates, as people are many times more at risk of severe illness and death if they are unvaccinated.

“Omicron may be less severe, on average, but the narrative that it is a mild disease is misleading, hurts the overall response and costs more lives.”

He stated that Omicron is still causing hospitalisations and deaths, and even less severe cases are causing issues for health facilities.

“The virus is circulating far too intensely with many still vulnerable,” he said.

“For many countries, the next few weeks remain really critical for health workers and health systems and I urge everyone to do their best to reduce risk of infection so that you can help take pressure off the system."

Updated: January 18, 2022, 11:42 PM