Boris Johnson today boasted of “massive success” in cutting coronavirus deaths – hours after England was found to have the worst excess death total in Europe.
The PM made the extraordinary comment after the Office for National Statistics revealed England topped the grim chart between February 21 and June 12.
Today’s ONS data showed “age-standardised mortality” in England hit a peak of 107.6% in mid-April.
While this wasn’t the highest peak, sustained excess deaths meant England had the “highest levels of excess mortality in Europe for the period as a whole,” the ONS said.
Yet asked if he was ashamed of the figures today, Boris Johnson claimed he had “massive success”.
The PM told reporters during a visit to North Yorkshire, he said: “We mourn every loss of life that we’ve had throughout the coronavirus epidemic.
“What I would say to them (families of the deceased) is that we really owe it to them to continue our work in driving the virus down.
“Clearly this country has had a massive success now in reducing the numbers of those tragic deaths.
“We’ve got it at the moment under some measure of control. The numbers of deaths are well, well down.
“But I have to tell you that we’re looking at a resurgence of the virus in some other European countries. You can see what’s been happening in the United States.”
Excess deaths refers to the number of deaths that is above the average total for this period in the previous five years.
The latest ONS analysis states: “While England did not have the highest peak mortality, it did have the longest continuous period of excess mortality of any country compared, resulting in England having the highest levels of excess mortality in Europe for the period as a whole.
“England saw the second highest national peak of excess mortality during Weeks 8 to 24 (week ending 21 February to week ending 12 June), compared with 21 European countries, with only Spain seeing a higher peak.”
The analysis also found that Birmingham suffered the worst peak in excess deaths of any major city in Britain, with a 249.7% increase.
Edward Morgan, an ONS expert in health analysis and life events, said excess mortality was widespread throughout the UK, whereas it was more localised in Western Europe.
He added: “Combined with the relatively slow downward ‘tail’ of the pandemic in the UK, this meant that by the end of May, England had seen the highest overall relative excess mortality out of all the European countries compared.”
It came as Boris Johnson urged British people not to “delude ourselves that somehow we’re out of the woods or that this is all over.
“Because it isn’t all over.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today confirmed new restrictions due to fears a second wave of coronavirus is “starting to roll across Europe”.
There is speculation the Office for National Statistics (ONS) could confirm England’s first rise in new cases since April tomorrow, after previously saying the long decline “has levelled off”.
Ministers are also preparing to reimpose quarantine tomorrow on people who come to the UK from certain countries with a spike.
Meanwhile, people who get coronavirus symptoms in the UK must now self-isolate in their home for at least 10 days, not 7, starting from today.
The new fears come just as millions are encouraged back to work, and 2.2million vulnerable people are told no longer to shield, from this Saturday.
Mr Johnson told reporters: “We’ve done a huge amount, together we’ve really reduced the incidence of the virus and we’ve got the number of deaths down.
“But it can come up again. And we’ve seen what’s happening in other European countries.
“So what I’m saying to people is don’t lose focus, don’t lose discipline, continue to observe those guidelines. And if you have symptoms, get a test.”