KEY POINTS

  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said England's death toll from coronavirus reached 29,427, but was later adjusted to 32,313 by the Office of National Statistics
  • By comparison, Italy's Protezione Civile said the country's death toll had risen to 29,315
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is next scheduled to address the country on Sunday and is expected to discuss plans of reopening the country

The U.K. surpassed Italy Tuesday for the highest number of deaths from coronavirus in Europe, according to British government figures.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said during a coronavirus briefing that the U.K.'s official death toll from the pandemic rose to 29,427. However, the Office of National Statistics raised the death toll after Raab’s briefing ended, making the new total to 32,313.

By comparison, Italy’s Protezione Civile said Tuesday the country’s death toll from the pandemic had risen to 29,315.

It was another sharp jump in deaths since the Office of National Statistics changed how it was counting deaths during the pandemic. Originally, the office was only counting anyone who had been hospitalized after testing positive. However, that was changed in April to account for all deaths which, in turn, led to sharper jumps in the country’s death count.

Raab said during the briefing that all the “lives lost is a massive tragedy, something in this country on this scale in this way that we haven’t seen before.”

"I don’t think we’ll get a real verdict on how countries have done until the pandemic is over, and particularly until we’ve got international comprehensive data on all-cause mortality," Raab said.

Some officials said the rising number of deaths was emblematic of the slow response by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the government.

"I’d be amazed if, when we look back, we don’t think: 'yup, we could have done something differently there,'" Patrick Vallance, the chief science adviser for the government, said at the briefing.

An investigation by Reuters published Tuesday also highlighted government policies that left many care homes unprotected. The government chose to focus resources on the National Health Service, providing tests and protective equipment to publicly funded hospitals first. However, that choice, coupled with a slow response to the pandemic, led to delays in testing and protective gear being sent to care home across England.

“The government’s response on testing has come way too late to have any meaningful effect on keeping the virus out of our homes,” CareUK executive Andrew Knight told Reuters.

Johnson was next scheduled to address the country Sunday and was expected to announce plans about reopening. However, Raab cautioned that the newly released numbers could force officials to change their approach.

“It's now clear that the second phase will be different. We will need to adjust to a new normal,” Raab said. “We want to make sure that the next phase is more comfortable, is more sustainable. But we need to be under no illusions, the next stage won't be easy.”

The new coronavirus infects human cells using the spike proteins (shown enlarged in the foreground) on its surface The new coronavirus infects human cells using the spike proteins (shown enlarged in the foreground) on its surface Photo: National Institutes of Health / Handout