Why zero Covid deaths marks a significant moment in the UK's pandemic struggle

Tom Clarke

Former Science Editor

Despite the fact more people are testing positive than last summer far fewer people are getting seriously ill and dying. Credit: PA

Zero Covid deaths is a significant moment - the first time since the 5 March 2020 that no death from Covid-19 has been recorded.The moment, after 453 consecutive days of people dying from Covid-19, that the dying stopped. A moment to reflect back on the three weeks this January when more than 1,000 people were dying each day. On January 19, the peak of that dreadful winter wave, 1,358 Covid deaths were recorded.And today. None.Strictly speaking of course, this moment is not “a moment”. The way official statistics are recorded means there is often a lag in recording deaths.

Figures are always lower on Mondays and after bank holidays. It’s entirely possible that someone did actually die of Covid in the last 24 hours and the data has yet to be recorded.

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Back then, around 1,000 people were testing positive for Covid each day. Now we’ve just recorded zero deaths but new cases remain above 3,000 each day.The reason of the difference is of course due to vaccines, while not perfect in preventing people getting infected with Covid, are very good at preventing people from dying.

So despite the fact more people are testing positive than last summer (to be fair we are doing more testing than we were last summer), far fewer people are getting seriously ill and dying.With infection levels as low as they are (compare Tuesday's average of 3,000 cases with the nearly 60,000 daily cases of early January) we have far more capacity to spot threats like new hotspots or new variants as they emerge.

Coronavirus deaths peaked in January in the UK. Credit: PA

Scientists have time to experiment with better treatments for Covid-19 that could hopefully prevent severe illness. Similarly, the NHS has time to prepare for an anticipated increase in cases this winter.Because, while we may have finally reached zero Covid deaths, around 5% of those vaccinated are still vulnerable to severe disease and a percentage of those will go on to die from Covid-19.

Nearly three-quarters of all adults have had a Covid jab. Credit: PA

Globally, the virus is at higher levels now then at any point in the pandemic so far. With that comes the continued likelihood of more variants of the disease that could further challenge our vaccines.No experts I know of are predicting that the situation could return to what it was like in January, but nearly all of them are warning cases, and to a lesser degree deaths, will rise again.