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Former Chief Scientific Adviser ‘astonished’ UK has highest coronavirus death toll in Europe

As the UK passed 50,000 coronavirus deaths former Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King said it's 'astonishing' the country has the highest death toll in Europe.

A further 595 deaths yesterday pushed the UK past the grim total, registering 8,000 more deaths than the next European country Italy - which was the first country to be devastated by the virus.

The UK is the fifth country across the world to surpass 50,000 deaths coming after the US, Brazil, India and Mexico.

Sir David King, who also chairs Independent SAGE, said: "It is a tragedy that could have been avoided from the very beginning. It is simply astonishing that we in Britain, leaders in the fields of epidemiology and medical care, have trailed the rest of the world in the way we've handled this.

"If we go back to that initial outbreak in Britain, we knew this was coming, we knew what happened in China and then in Italy and we did nothing to prepare for it.

"We didn't help our hospitals by restocking them with equipment they would need as the epidemic arrived. We didn't set up a test and trace system."

Senior Clinical Lecturer at University of Exeter Medical School Dr Bharat Pankhania agreed with Sir David and went on to say the vaccine is "in now way a silver bullet".

He said: "We have to consider how effective the vaccine will be and will it generate immunity in the at-risk group - the very people we want to save the lives of because they are the seem people who don't mount good immunity.

"There will be sporadic infections happening even though people are immunised. It is not time for the government to test, trace and isolate locally because we will get local outbreaks in 12-18 months' time. It is time we prepare to manage this locally, by local experts."

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