Britain has overtaken Italy to report the highest official death toll from coronavirus in Europe with more than 32,000 deaths, figures released on Tuesday showed.
The high death toll could increase political pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who waited longer than other European leaders to order a lockdown to curb the spread of the virus in March.
Weekly figures from Britain’s national statistics office added more than 7,000 deaths in England and Wales, raising the total for the United Kingdom to 32,313.
The figure is one of several methods for calculating deaths and difficult to compare with other countries, but it offers the clearest sign yet that Britain could emerge as the worst-hit country in Europe, despite being hit later than other countries.
Opposition parties have raised questions about Johnson’s initial decision to delay a lockdown at a time when hospitals in Italy were already being overrun.
They also say his government was too slow to introduce mass testing and provide enough protective equipment to hospitals.
The true figure for deaths from coronavirus may be even higher. The Office of National Statistics said 33,593 more people had died than average up to April 24 in England and Wales, compared to 27,365 cases in which coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificates.