0819 GMT January 20, 2022
A scientist advising the government said the total passed on Saturday, when an additional 313 deaths were announced, was an “absolute tragedy” made worse because “many of them were avoidable if we had acted earlier in the first and second wave”.
With a total of 150,057 deaths by that way of measuring, the UK became the seventh country to pass the milestone, following the US, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico and Peru.
But separate figures from the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 174,000 deaths registered in the UK where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Professor Andrew Hayward, who sits on the British government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “It is absolutely tragic and to think that’s been repeated so many times is awful.
“I think we could have done better. I think some of the deaths are even more tragic for the fact that many of them were avoidable if we had acted earlier in the first and second wave.”
The new deaths were announced as the NHS continues to face significant strain from the Omicron variant and record high cases, though death rates are not as nearly as sharp as earlier in the pandemic because of vaccines and the new strain being believed to be milder.
Anti-vaccine protests in Europe
Despite increasing number of new positive cases in the world, especially in Europe, demonstrators took to streets across western Europe in protest against COVID-19 vaccine requirements, with more than 100,000 people rallying in France alone to oppose what they called the government’s plans to restrict the rights of the unvaccinated.
In the French capital, Paris, protesters – many of them unmasked – braved the cold and the rain on Saturday, carrying placards that read “Truth”, “Freedom” and “No to vaccine pass”.
The protests came as France recorded more than 300,000 COVID-19 infections in a single day on Friday and the country’s lower house on Thursday approved a government bill that will require individuals to prove they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus before they can eat out, travel on intercity trains or attend cultural events.
More than 40,000 people also protested in the Austrian capital, Vienna, where vaccination against COVID-19 is set to become compulsory from next month.
In Germany, protesters rallied in several cities on Saturday, with the largest event held in Hamburg, where some 16,000 people attended, according to the police.
Protests also took place in Italy, with hundreds of people in the city of Turin protesting against rules that make vaccines mandatory for anyone more than the age of 50.