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Covid-19: UK records first death, as world’s cases exceed 100 000

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m943 (Published 06 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m943

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  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

The first death from covid-19 has been recorded in the UK, while the death toll across the world has exceeded 3300, with China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran having the highest numbers.

The UK patient, who was described as “older” and with underlying health conditions, had been “in and out of hospital for non-coronavirus reasons” before being tested and found positive for the virus.

As at 6 March more than 20 000 people had been tested for covid-19 in the UK, of whom 163 have been found positive. England has 147 cases, with 29 in London, 24 in the South East, 22 in the south West, and 21 in the North West. The North East and Yorkshire has 13 cases, the Midland has 12, and the East of England has eight. The locations of a further 15 cases are yet to be confirmed.

The news of the death came after England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, told the House of Commons health and social care select committee that the UK was transitioning from the “contain” to the “delay” phase of the planned response. This aims to delay the peak in the number of cases, pushing it closer to the summer months. Nearly all cases (90%) are expected to hit the NHS within a nine week period.1

Whitty said, “I am very sorry to report a patient in England who tested positive for covid-19 has, sadly, died. I offer my sincere condolences to their family and friends and ask that their request for privacy is respected.

“The patient, who was being treated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, was an older patient who had underlying health conditions. We believe they contracted the virus in the UK and contact tracing is already under way.”

A spokesperson for Royal Berkshire NHS Trust said, “Sadly, we can confirm that an older patient with underlying health conditions has died. The patient has previously been in and out of hospital for non-coronavirus reasons, but on this occasion was admitted and last night tested positive for coronavirus.

“The family has been informed and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time. We will not be commenting further and ask that everybody respects the family’s privacy.”

Worldwide, more than 100 000 cases of covid-19 have been confirmed in more than 90 countries, of which over half (55 595) have been classified as recovered.

Speaking at a daily briefing on 5 March, the World Health Organizations’ director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “We are concerned that in some countries the level of political commitment and the actions that demonstrate that commitment do not match the level of the threat we all face.

“This is not a drill. This is not the time to give up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops.”

However, he also cited some positive developments, including that eight provinces in China had not reported any new cases in the past 14 days and that newly reported cases in South Korea seemed to be declining, with the cases being reported identified primarily from known clusters.

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