The official British Covid-19 death toll passed 50,000 on Wednesday.
Early in the pandemic, the government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, had said that keeping the death toll below 20,000 would be “a good outcome”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “Britain is not out of the woods yet. Every death is a tragedy, and we mourn everybody who’s gone.”
Last week he ordered England back into a month-long national lockdown amid concerns that a second wave of infections could overwhelm the National Health Service.
He has been criticised by political opponents for moving too slowly to declare both national lockdowns, for shortages of personal protective equipment and for failing to adequately protect the elderly in care homes.
A further 22,950 people tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, up from 20,412 the day before.
Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of Public Health England, said in a statement, “Sadly the upward trend is likely to continue and it will be several weeks before any impact of the current measures is seen and reflected in the data.”
The UK has the highest death toll in Europe, and worldwide the number is only higher in the US, Brazil, India and Mexico.