The coronavirus death toll in the UK has passed the grim milestone of 43,000, health officials announced on Wednesday.

The total number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 has risen to 306,862, with 653 new cases over the past 24 hours.

“As of 5pm on 23 June, of those tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 43,081 have sadly died,” the Department of Health and Social Care said, adding there were 154 deaths since yesterday.

The UK has the highest coronavirus death toll across Europe, and the third-highest in the world after the US and Brazil.

Aside from the official statistics so far, the true number of victims could be as high as 50,000, according to some estimates based on data by the Office of National Statistics on excess deaths.

On Tuesday, the British government announced it would further relax lockdown measures in the first week of July.

According to yesterday’s announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, restaurants, pubs, cinemas, and hairdressers will reopen as of July 4.

Places of worships will also be allowed to reopen on the same date.

The government said the previous two-meter social distancing measure will be in place where possible, but it could be one meter in other places, giving owners of restaurants, cafes, and similar businesses leeway to accept more customers.

The government is also reviewing proposed air bridges to eight countries, including Turkey, to allow millions of Brits to go away for holidays this summer.

Some flights have already resumed with strict hygiene measures.

The British government is also currently reviewing the decision of a 14-day quarantine for everyone arriving in the country from abroad, including UK citizens.

Copyright 2022 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.