Boris Johnson 'deeply sorry' for lives lost as UK Covid deaths pass 100,000

26 January 2021, 17:33 | Updated: 27 January 2021, 00:13

By Megan White

Boris Johnson has said he is "deeply sorry" for every life that has been lost to coronavirus in the UK as the country's death toll passed 100,000.

The Prime Minister insisted the UK Government "did everything it could" to minimise the number of lives lost to Covid and offered his "deepest condolences" to those who have lost relatives.

Speaking at a Downing Street press briefing, he pledged to ensure those who had died would be remembered, and said "we will come together as a nation to remember everyone we lost and to honour the selfless heroism of all those on the front line who gave their lives to save others".

Mr Johnson said: "On this day I shall just really repeat that I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost.

Read more: More than 100,000 people have now died with Covid in the UK, Govt figures show

"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 we can to minimise loss of life and to minimise suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage and a very difficult crisis for our country.

"And we will continue to do that, just as every Government that is affected by this crisis around the world is continuing to do the same."

Mr Johnson told the briefing it was "hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic: the years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended and for so many relatives the missed chance to even say goodbye".

He said: "I'm sorry to have to tell you that today the number of deaths recorded from Covid in the UK has surpassed 100,000...

"I offer my deepest condolences to everyone who's lost a loved one: fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and the many grandparents who have been taken."

Read more: ‘Quarantine hotels’ plan set to be approved by PM

The Prime Minister said that the coronavirus infection rate remains "pretty forbiddingly high" to ease lockdown restrictions, but added: "At a certain stage we will want to be getting things open.

"What I will be doing in the course of the next few days and weeks is sending out in more detail as soon as we can when and how we want to get things open again."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the number of deaths was a "national tragedy", adding: "We must never become numb to these numbers or treat them as just statistics. Every death is a loved one, a friend, a neighbour, a partner or a colleague. It is an empty chair at the dinner table."

Following the Prime Minister's comments, England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said it was a "very sad day".

Presenting slides of coronavirus data to the Downing Street press conference, he said the number of people testing positive for coronavirus was "still at a very high number, but it has been coming down".

He cautioned that Office for National Statistics data demonstrates a slower decrease, adding: "I think we need to be careful we do not relax too early".

Read more: Hope of 'much more normal future' as Covid treatments improve, NHS chief says

He said the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in the UK was still an "incredibly high number".

Prof Whitty said this had "flattened off" and was not still rising overall but was "substantially above the peak in April".

Prof Whitty said it looked like hospital figures were coming down slightly in areas such as London and the South East and the East of England, but in some areas levels were "still not convincingly reducing".

He said that deaths of people who had a positive coronavirus test looked as if it was flattening out at a very high level.

Prof Whitty warned that "the number of people dying per day will come down relatively slowly over the next two weeks".

The Prime Minister also said "the best and most important thing we can all do to honour the memory of those who have died is to work together with ever greater resolve to defeat this disease."

He told the briefing: "We will remember the courage of countless working people, not just our amazing NHS and care workers, but shop workers, transport staff, pharmacists, teachers, police, armed forces, emergency services, and many others who kept our country going during our biggest crisis since the Second World War.

"We will commemorate the small acts of kindness - the spirit of volunteering and the daily sacrifice of millions who placed their lives on hold, time and again, as we fought each new wave of the virus, buying time for our brilliant scientists to come to our aid.

"In that moment of commemoration, we will celebrate the genius and perseverance of those who discovered the vaccines.

"And the immense national effort, never seen before in our history, which is now under way to distribute them, one that has now seen us immunise over 6.8 million people across the United Kingdom.

"When those vaccines have finally freed us from this virus and put us on a path to recovery, we will make sure we learn the lessons and reflect and prepare.

"Until that time, the best and most important thing we can all do to honour the memory of those who have died is to work together with ever greater resolve to defeat this disease. And that is what we will do."