More than 200,000 people have had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate in the UK since the pandemic began in what has been described as a "damning milestone."
The latest figures come as infections and hospital admissions are once again on the rise, driven by the coronavirus subvariant Omicron BA.2 – though the number of deaths remains well below levels reached in previous waves.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 200,247 deaths involving Covid-19 have now been registered in the UK.
Jo Goodman, co-founder of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign, described the figures as “yet another damning milestone of the government’s handling of the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, nearly 3 million adults in England remain unvaccinated, according to a Parliamentary report published on Wednesday.
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The ONS figure include all instances where Covid-19 has been mentioned on someone’s death certificate, either as a main cause of death or a contributory factor.
The 200,000 mark was reached on June 25, but has only now been confirmed due to the time it takes for deaths to be registered.
Covid-19 deaths have remained low by historic standards during each of this year’s waves, reflecting the success of vaccines in weakening the link between infection and serious illness.
Analysis of ONS data shows the number of deaths involving coronavirus occurring in the UK each week has remained mostly below 1,000 since early last year, peaking between 1,000 and 2,000 whenever infections have jumped.
By contrast, during the wave caused by the Alpha variant in January 2021, the weekly figure peaked at nearly 10,000.
The number of mentions of Covid-19 on death certificates has always been the most reliable and consistent measure of coronavirus mortality, as it not affected by factors such as reduced levels of testing, as happened in the early months of the pandemic.
It is now the only UK-wide measure of mortality.
An alternative method, based only on the number of people who died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, was discontinued recently after health authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland stopped reporting the figures.
Both authorities said changes in coronavirus testing policy earlier this year influenced their decision.
People with Covid-19 symptoms are no longer advised to test themselves regularly, while access to free tests is limited to only a small part of the population in all four nations.
This means that data based just on positive tests is not likely to reflect the true prevalence of coronavirus in the community or the real level of mortality.
Health authorities in England and Wales still report weekly figures showing the number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test, however.
A 'damning milestone'
Ms Goodman said the deaths are a "tragedy" and criticsed the government's approach to the virus.
She added: “454 people died within 28 days of a positive test from Covid just last week and yet the Government refuses to take even basic steps to protect people from the virus.
“By, for instance, making people pay for tests, not enforcing adequate sick pay or taking measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in hospitals, the government is effectively throwing the most vulnerable in our society to the wolves.”
Around nine in 10 deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate since the start of the pandemic have coronavirus as the primary cause of death, with a minority listing the virus as a contributory factor.
The sharp slowdown in deaths over the past 18 months is illustrated by the way it took just 61 days for the cumulative total to climb from 100,000 to 150,000, but a further 474 days to go from 150,000 to 200,000.
Analysis of ONS data also shows that:
The highest number of deaths involving Covid-19 to occur on a single day was 1,489, on January 19 2021.
During the first wave of the virus, the daily toll peaked at 1,461 on April 8 2020.
A total of 94,998 deaths involving Covid-19 took place in the UK in 2020, compared with 82,200 in 2021 and 23,049 so far in 2022.
The cumulative number of deaths involving coronavirus passed 50,000 on May 22 2020, reached 100,000 on January 6 2021 and 150,000 on March 8 2021.