UK eyes traveler quarantine as virus toll passes 100,000

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts while leading a virtual press conference on the Covid-19 pandemic, inside 10 Downing Street in central London Tuesday Jan. 26, 2021. Official data shows that more than 100,000 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in Britain, since the pandemic took hold last year. (Justin Tallis / Pool via AP)

LONDON – Britain's official death toll in the coronavirus pandemic passed 100,000 on Tuesday, a dreaded milestone reached as the government considered imposing hotel quarantines on international travelers to stop new virus variants reaching the country.

The government said 100,162 people have died in the pandemic after testing positive for the virus, including 1,631 new deaths reported Tuesday.

“it is hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic,” a somber Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “The years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended and, for so many relatives, the missed chance even to say goodbye.”

Britain is the fifth country in the world to record 100,000 virus-related deaths, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, and by far the smallest. The U.S. has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times the size of Britain's 67 million.

As in other countries, the real toll is likely even higher. U.K. statistics agencies say that the number of deaths registered that mention COVID-19 on the death certificate is more than 108,000.

Opposition politicians and public health officials accuse Johnson's Conservative government of being slow to act throughout the outbreak when it has come to lockdowns and travel restrictions. A more transmissible new variant identified in southeast England late last year also helped push infections to new highs and plunged the country into its third lockdown.

Johnson said at a televised news conference that he took “full responsibility for everything that 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 minimize loss of life and to minimize suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage and a very, very difficult crisis for our country," he said.