The challenges posed by coronavirus are proving difficult for many countries to overcome.
This week, the UK passed the unwelcome milestone of 100,000 deaths - a stark statistic that highlights how badly the virus has impacted the country since the first two infections were confirmed on 31 January last year, and the first person died from it on 5 March.
The UK has the fifth highest COVID death toll in the world and, according to the latest figures, is where 1 in 7 of all COVID deaths in Europe have taken place.
On Tuesday, a grim-faced Boris Johnson said he was “deeply sorry” after the death toll passed 100,000.
On 17 March last year, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had said 20,000 COVID-19 deaths would be a “good outcome”.
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When that 20,000 figure was put to Johnson, he said: “On this day I should repeat that I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost and of course, as prime minister I take full responsibility for everything 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 minimise loss of life and minimise suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage and a very, very difficult crisis for our country.”
Johnson continues to face questions over his handling of the pandemic.
While it has been widely acknowledged the new, more transmissible variant of the virus was “unpredictable”, top epidemiologists have said the PM could have saved lives during the winter by enforcing more harsh measures in September, when infections began to increase again.
He has also been criticised for being slow to impose a lockdown in March 2020 and for opening up the economy too quickly last summer with the Eat Out To Help Out scheme.
The UK’s Test and Trace system has also been widely criticised.
The situation has also continued to worsen in Europe in recent weeks, with Hans Kluge, the regional director for World Health Organization Europe, confirming on Thursday that the death toll had surpassed 700,000. Last week alone, there were 38,000 deaths.
He said: “Lockdowns, introduced to limit the spread of the virus, particularly the more transmissible new variants, have resulted in a decrease in new cases across the Region: 30 countries have seen a significant decrease in 14-day cumulative incidence.
“This is 7 more countries than two weeks ago. Yet, transmission rates across Europe are still very high, impacting health systems and straining services, making it too early to ease-up.
“Some tough questions have been asked of our leaders over this past year. To European health authorities that have taken timely but painful decisions and managed to reverse the trend, I commend you for your resourcefulness and actions.”
He also pointed out, even as vaccines begin to be rolled out, that only 3% of people on the continent have had a confirmed infection. “Areas hit badly once can be hit again,” he warned.
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