New figures released on Tuesday show that the death toll from coronavirus in England and Wales has crossed 50,000, with the Boris Johnson government after months of mixed messaging is gearing up to make face coverings in shops mandatory from July 24.
Failure to wear face covering in will attract a fine of 100 pounds under the new rules. Ministers previously did not encourage masks. Environment secretary George Eustice said: “It is about managing the overall risk. Any type of covering will be sufficient for this purpose.”
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which counts casualties on the basis of condition mentioned in death certificates, said coronavirus figured in 50,548 deaths between December 28 and July 3; of these, England accounted for 48,154 and Wales 2,470.
The ONS count differs from that of the Department of Health, which releases figures of deaths and positive cases based on cases in hospitals and care homes. The ONS count includes deaths from the virus in all settings.
The figure of 50,548 does not include the dead in Scotland and Northern Ireland. On Tuesday, Scotland reported that there were no deaths for six days in a row as the Scottish National Party government in Edinburgh continues its stricter approach to dealing with the pandemic compared to that in England.
A new modelling commissioned by chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance warned that the UK could see about 120,000 new coronavirus deaths in a second wave of infections this winter, the season when the country experiences a rise in hospital admissions and deaths.
Experts who were asked to model a reasonable worst-case scenario suggested a range between 24,500 and 251,000 of virus-related deaths in hospitals alone, peaking in January and February, according to their paper released on Tuesday.
Stephen Holgate of the University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust, who chaired the report, said: “This is not a prediction – but it is a possibility. The modelling suggests that deaths could be higher with a new wave of Covid-19 this winter”.
“But the risk of this happening could be reduced if we take action immediately,” he added.