How the UK reached 100,000 Covid-19 deaths

Some of the many victims of Covid-19.
  • Words by ITV News Digital Multimedia Producer Jocelyn Evans

Since the first confirmed death of a Covid-19 patient in the UK in March, the country has passed many other "grim milestones".

Now that figure has reached 100,000 deaths among patients who died within 28 days of the first positive coronavirus test.

Here's how we got here.

March 5 - 'Business as usual' as first reported Covid death confirmed

On March 5, the UK reported its first confirmed Covid death after a woman in her 70s died at the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust after testing positive for the virus.

No restrictions to limit the spread of the pandemic were in place yet.

The prime minister stressed it was "business as usual" for the country and encouraged people to keep washing their hands.

  • 'The situation is pretty much as it has been... Wash your hands and business as usual'

March 23 - Nationwide lockdown announced as deaths reach 335

On March 23, total deaths rose to 335 - that evening Boris Johnson announced the UK was to go into full lockdown - the first lockdown was initially announced as a three week period.

It was, of course, extended.

A week earlier the government's chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance said a death toll of 20,000 would be a "good outcome". At the time that figure seemed otherworldly.

  • '20,000 and below - that's a good outcome... but it's still horrible, that's still an enormous number of deaths'

April 12 - UK death toll surpasses 10,000

With 737 new Covid deaths reported in a single day, the UK passed 10,000 deaths on Easter Sunday.

It came three weeks into the UK's nationwide lockdown - the one that was initially supposed to last only three weeks - with no sign of restrictions being lifted.

In that time, both Matt Hancock and Mr Johnson had tested positive for Covid-19, with the latter requiring intensive care treatment.

The health secretary held a briefing that afternoon, describing it as a "sombre day" for the country.

It was also the first time Mr Hancock mentioned the NHS contact tracing app, stressing the government was working with experts in clinical safety and digital ethics “so that we can get this right”.

It took until September before the app was released.

April 25 - UK death toll surpasses 20,000

In less than two weeks, the UK's reported death toll doubled to exceed the 20,000 mark which had initially been posed as a "good outcome".

At a government Covid briefing, home secretary Priti Patel described it as a “deeply tragic and moving moment”.

The UK was just one of a handful of countries to have passed the figure at that point - alongside France, Spain, Italy and the USA.

With deaths and cases still on the rise, the government refused to give an indication on when nationwide lockdown would end.

  • Watch ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger's report from the time:

May 6 - UK death toll surpasses 30,000

As the UK's Covid death toll continued to climb, international comparisons began to be made.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked the PM "how on earth did it come to this?" as he suggested the UK had the world's "second highest" coronavirus death toll.

“It’s now the highest number in Europe. It’s the second highest in the world," he said, "that’s not success or apparent success."

But the government insisted international comparisons could not be made due to difference in how coronavirus deaths were reported in each country.

At this point testing also became an issue, with the government's 100,000 daily Covid test target repeatedly not met.

On May 6, Mr Johnson signalled the start of the easing of the first lockdown.

The PM confirmed an exit strategy would soon be announced, with a relaxation of the rules imminent.

June 5 - UK death toll tops 40,000

On Friday, June 5, the UK's official coronavirus death toll climbed to beyond 40,000.

As the rise in the number of deaths slowed, the government responded by easing the strictest lockdown measures across the month of May into June.

An alert system was brought in to measure the strength of the restrictions in place, and with it new "stay alert" branding - a switch from the "stay home" message.

The moment was also the start of the break up of a nationwide approach to the pandemic, as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales stuck with the "stay home" message.

In early May, the government switched their work from home message to "actively encourage" anybody who couldn't to return to their workplaces.

"Unlimited" outdoor exercise was also permitted.

On June 1 the rules were eased again - with each nation going its separate way on Covid restrictions.

In England this meant the rule of six outdoors, more freedoms for individuals who had been shielding, and back to school for some pupils.

The biggest change of all came on June 15, however, when huge swathes of the retail industry reopened their doors.

November 11 - UK death toll surpasses 50,000

The UK enjoyed a summer of relative freedom, with retailers trading once again and the hospitality industry back in action aided by the chancellor's Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

But as the warm months came to an end and autumn took hold, cases began to climb once more with repeated warnings that a second wave of infections taking hold.

The government stuck with the Covid tier system of restrictions - introduced in early October - until on Halloween a new national lockdown was announced.

Pubs, leisure facilities, non-essential shops and other businesses closed once again on November 5 for four weeks.

It was hoped that the measure would bring down the soaring number of cases and deaths, with the PM saying he was "certain" it would also allow "as normal a Christmas as possible".

The death toll at this point had already reached more than 45,000, however, and sure enough by November 11, Armistice Day, the UK's official death toll reached 50,000.

  • On the 50,000 death toll Mr Johnson said: "Every death is a tragedy".

Boxing Day - The UK death toll reaches 70,000

A further 570 deaths - reported as of 9am on Boxing Day - brought the UK total to 70,195.

In the weeks before that moment, the UK had approved the Pfizer vaccine for use and the rollout had already begun - with Margaret Keenan making history as the first person to get the jab.

But heartbreak too for many families after the government's proposed easing of rules for Christmas was scrapped less than a week before the big day.

A new set of rules, Tier 4 was introduced for London and the south east of England.

While Mr Johnson told the nation the tightening of the restrictions was linked to the spread of a mutant variant of Covid-19 - more infectious than the original.

January 8 - UK reports 'highest daily rise in deaths since start of pandemic'

The start of the year brought a third national lockdown for England, announced on January 8 - with similar measures in place across the other nations.

The New Year also saw a new headline: "Highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since outbreak began".

A headline that has already been repeated three times.

Four headlines within 12 days of each other show the sharp increase in the number of reported deaths. Credit: ITV News

On January 8 1,325 Covid deaths (people who died within 28 days of developing the virus) were reported.

Five days later that figure rose to 1,564, then 1,610 six days later and was exceeded again the next day (January 20) when 1,820 deaths were reported.

January 14 - UK passes 'reasonable worst case scenario' of 85,000 deaths

With the number of reported deaths each day on the rise, the country soon surpassed the 85,000 mark.

The government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had flagged that figures as the "reasonable worst case scenario".

Indeed the group had warned back in September 2020 that we might reach this point if a two-week circuit breaker lockdown was not brought in - it wasn't.

January 26 - The UK death toll reaches 100,000

On Tuesday January 26, the official Covid death toll reached 100,162 as a further 1,631 deaths among people who died within 28 days of developing the virus were reported.