The United Kingdom’s official death toll in the coronavirus pandemic passed 100,000 on Tuesday as the government considered imposing hotel quarantines on international travellers to stop new virus variants from reaching the country.
The government said 100,162 people have died in the pandemic after testing positive for the virus, including 1,631 new deaths reported Tuesday.
“It is hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “The years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended and, for so many relatives, the missed chance even to say goodbye.”
The U.S. has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times the size of the U.K.’s 67 million.
As in other countries, the real toll is likely even higher. U.K. statistics agencies say the number of deaths registered that mention COVID-19 on the death certificate is more than 108,000.
Opposition politicians and public health officials accuse Johnson’s Conservative government of being slow to act throughout the outbreak when it has come to lockdowns and travel restrictions. A more transmissible new variant identified in southeast England late last year also helped to push infections to new highs and plunged the country into its third lockdown.
In a televised news conference, Johnson said he took “full responsibility for everything that the government has done.”
“What I can tell you is that we truly did everything we could, and continue to do everything that we can, to minimize loss of life and to minimize suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage and a very, very difficult crisis for our country,” he said.
British authorities are banking on a successful vaccination program to help the country suppress the outbreak and ease the lockdown. So far, more than 6.8 million people have received the first of two doses of a vaccine, and the government aims to give 15 million people, including everyone over 70, a jab by Feb. 15.
Johnson has promised a public inquiry into the U.K.’s handling of the outbreak — but not until the crisis is over.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said there would be an announcement Tuesday on plans for tighter border measures. The BBC reported that U.K. citizens and residents arriving from most of southern Africa and South America, as well as Portugal, will have to self-isolate in a hotel for 10 days at their own expense.
Quarantine hotels have been used to limit virus transmissions in countries including Australia, New Zealand, China, India and Singapore, but the practice has not been widely adopted in Europe.
Current lockdown rules bar U.K. residents from taking foreign holidays, although essential travel is allowed. People arriving from overseas are already required to self-isolate, but enforcement is patchy.
People arriving in the U.K. from abroad also must show they have tested negative for COVID-19. The government recently banned direct flights from South Africa, Brazil and Portugal — and barred entry to travellers from there and some nearby countries — in response to new variants of the virus.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says new pandemic measures are coming for Canada and that Canadians should cancel any travel plans.
Trudeau said that even though existing travel control measures have been effective in keeping the number of infections low, more effort will be needed going forward.
“Obviously, extremely low is still not zero, and one case is too many if we’re importing, particularly considering the variants out there,” he said.
— From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 3:15 p.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
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As of 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 756,616 cases of COVID-19, with 59,550 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,403.
Trudeau sought to reassure Canadians on Tuesday that vaccine shots will continue to arrive even as the European Union threatens protectionist measures to limit the export of doses abroad.
The EU is poised to impose export controls on vaccines leaving the 27-member bloc to ensure supply on the continent. The proposal would require companies to seek approval before shipping vaccines to countries such as Canada.
Some provinces continued to report encouraging drops in the number of new cases and hospitalizations.
Ontario reported 1,740 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 63 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 5,909.
Ontario is reporting 1,740 new cases of COVID-19 and 63 additional deaths. Local hot spots are Toronto (677), Peel (320), York (144). 30,717 tests were completed with a 5.9% positivity rate. <a href=”https://t.co/22XcdlRiS2″>https://t.co/22XcdlRiS2</a>
According to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, more than 30,700 tests were completed. The health minister said in a tweet that of the cases announced on Tuesday, 677 were in Toronto, 320 were in Peel Region and 144 were in York Region.
Hospitalizations in Ontario stood at 1,466, with 383 COVID-19 patients in intensive care on Tuesday, according to a provincial dashboard.
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Quebec, meanwhile, reported 1,166 new cases of COVID-19 and 57 additional deaths on Tuesday. Hospitalizations in Quebec stood at 1,324, with 217 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units, according to a provincial update published on Tuesday.
British Columbia on Tuesday reported 407 new cases and 14 new deaths.
Alberta reported 366 new cases and an additional 14 deaths on Tuesday. The province’s chief medical officer of health said Alberta must move cautiously and that it’s not likely pandemic restrictions will be imminently lifted.
“I know that many Albertans and impacted businesses are eager to reopen and wishing we would move more quickly,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw told a news conference on Tuesday.
“The rise of new variants in Alberta and around the world also makes it vital that we not move too quickly, which could have dire consequences for our health system and our health.”
Manitoba on Tuesday reported 94 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths. It’s the first time the province’s daily reporting of new cases has dropped below 100 since Jan. 12.
Here’s a look at what else is happening across Canada:
— From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:35 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 100 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 55.1 million of the cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million.
French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi will produce more than 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by its competitors Pfizer and BioNTech by the end of the year, CEO Paul Hudson told Le Figaro newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday.
As Sanofi and its British partner GlaxoSmithKline have delayed the launch of their shot to late 2021, the French company decided to approach Pfizer “in order to be helpful as of now,” Hudson said, adding that an agreement with the U.S. company had been reached.
Elsewhere in Europe, police patrolled streets in the Netherlands to help bring an end to three successive nights of violent rioting prompted by a curfew designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. By late night, the increased police presence appeared to have paid off, with no major rioting or clashes between youths and police reported.
In the United States, President Joe Biden announced the country is buying enough COVID-19 vaccines to protect 300 million people by the end of the summer. Deliveries to states will surge for the next three weeks following complaints of shortages and inconsistent replies.
Biden announced the surge Tuesday, along with the news that the federal government is purchasing an additional 100 million doses each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines. With existing purchases, the White House expects to be able to deliver enough of the two-dose regimens to states to vaccinate 300 million people.
“This is enough vaccine to vaccinate 300 million Americans by end of summer, early fall,” Biden said, calling the push to increase supply a “wartime effort.”
Biden also announced a roughly 16 per cent boost in deliveries to states over the coming weeks, amid complaints of shortages so severe that some vaccination sites around the U.S. had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first shot.
In Portugal, the health minister said authorities are considering asking other European Union countries for help amid a steep surge in COVID-19 cases. Portugal has had the world’s worst rate of new daily cases and deaths per 100,000 people for the past week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Health Minister Marta Temido said sending patients to other EU countries is not uncommon in the bloc. But, she said, Portugal has the disadvantage of being geographically remote and hospitals across the continent are under pressure from the pandemic. She said the country may instead be asking for medical workers to be sent.
Portuguese hospitals are under severe strain, Temido told public broadcaster RTP. “We have beds available,” she said. “What we’re struggling with is finding staff.”
That request may be difficult to fulfil, because all countries in the 27-nation bloc are dealing with their own pandemic strains, made more difficult now because of the emergence of virus variants.
In the Asia-Pacific region, health authorities in Taiwan are quarantining 5,000 people while looking for the source of two new coronavirus cases linked to a hospital.
Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed one million on Tuesday and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity.
Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 13,094 on Tuesday to bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468.
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The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesia launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine.
Chinese airlines are offering refunded tickets as the coronavirus continues to spread in the country’s northeast. The offer Tuesday from the government’s aviation authority comes amid a push to prevent people travelling during the Lunar New Year holiday next month.
In Africa, Russia and China have approached Zimbabwe about supplying vaccines to tackle its escalating COVID-19 outbreak amid concern about Harare’s ability to afford the shots.
— From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:40 p.m. ET