The UK has reported the highest number of daily Covid-19 deaths since March 9 as fears grow over the country’s control of the pandemic compared to European neighbours.
The government has said a further 223 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 138,629.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 164,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
As of 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 43,738 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the government said.
Britain was faster to reopen and relax restrictions than other European countries, and has lagged behind rolling out vaccines to younger people.
The weekly rate of new reported cases of Covid-19 in the UK is one of the highest in the world, having jumped from 367 cases per 100,000 people at the start of October to its current level of 463 per 100,000.
By contrast, rates have dropped to very low levels in neighbouring countries such as Spain (24 per 100,000), France (48) and Germany (80).
Just over 67% of the UK population have received two doses of vaccine according to government figures, compared with at least 75% in Denmark, 79% in Spain and 86% in Portugal.
A leading member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said it is “critical” that the Covid booster programme is accelerated.
Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said there is a need to speed up boosters and the vaccination of teenagers, who he suggested should be given two doses of a jab to block infection and transmission.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Prof Ferguson, whose data was instrumental to the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, said the UK had higher Covid cases than other countries for a number of reasons.
“First of all, we have lower functional immunity in our population than most other Western European countries and that’s for two reasons,” he said.
“Partly, we were very successful in getting vaccination rolled out early and we know that gradually immunity wanes over time after you’ve had that second dose, so how early we were means we are a bit more vulnerable.
“Second, we relied more on the AstraZeneca vaccine and, while that protects very well against very severe outcomes of Covid, it protects slightly less well than Pfizer against infection and transmission, particularly in the face of the Delta variant.
“And finally, we just sit behind a few other countries, not dramatically, but we’re no longer in the top rank of European countries in terms of overall vaccination coverage, particularly vaccinating teenagers.
“Overall coverage rates here are considerably lower, for instance, than in Spain, Portugal and Denmark.”
Downing Street said the government was “not complacent” about rising coronavirus cases but the level of hospital admissions and deaths were “an order of magnitude” to earlier in the pandemic.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said there were “no plans” to use the contingency measures set out in the autumn/winter strategy.