The number of daily coronavirus deaths in the UK dropped to its lowest level in two weeks as 450 new fatalities were reported in the last 24 hours.
It brings Britain’s death toll to 16,522 as experts say there are signs the curve is flattening and the UK is reaching its peak.
The single-day totals have dropped two days in a row but the decreases should be met with caution as many deaths won’t be counted until later due to a lag in reporting weekend deaths.
The lag results in a spike in weekday figures.
England reported an additional 429 deaths on Monday, Scotland recorded 12 and Wales had another nine. Northern Ireland had not yet announced its latest totals.
The figures were announced as the Government scrambles to fill shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid signs that a shipment from Turkey, which includes 400,000 badly needed gowns, would be delayed for a second day in a row.
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Monday’s increase of 450 deaths is down from 534 on Sunday and 885 on Saturday. It is the lowest single-day total since April 6 when 441 fatalities were reported.
The record high was April 10 when 953 new deaths were announced (based on totals announced individually by each UK nation, not Department of Health figures).
The Department of Health will release its official death toll later. It will likely be slightly lower than 16,522 due to a lag in reporting.
England’s death toll rises to 14,829
NHS England has announced 429 new deaths of people who tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 14,829.
Of the 429 new deaths announced today:
– 85 occurred on April 19
– 210 occurred on April 18
– 53 occurred on April 17
The figures also show 77 of the deaths took place between April 1 and April 16, and the remaining four deaths occurred in March, with the earliest new death taking place on March 21.
NHS England releases updated figures each day showing the dates of every coronavirus-related death in hospitals in England, often including previously uncounted deaths that took place several days or even weeks ago.
Single-day coronavirus death tolls since April 6 based on totals reported individually by each UK nation every afternoon.
April 6 – 441
April 7 – 854
April 8 – 936
April 9 – 891
April 10 – 953
April 11 – 917
April 12 – 710
April 13 – 697
April 14 – 744
April 15 – 801
April 16 – 870
April 17 – 825
April 18 – 885
April 19 – 534
April 20 – 450 (Northern Ireland not yet reporting)
This is because of the time it takes for deaths to be confirmed as testing positive for Covid-19, for post-mortem examinations to be processed, and for data from the tests to be validated.
The figures published today by NHS England show April 8 currently has the highest total for the most hospital deaths occurring on a single day – 803 – although this could change in future updates.
Separate figures from NHS England, using data up to 5pm on April 17, show that of 13,918 patients in hospitals in England who had tested positive for Covid-19 at time of death, 73.6% were of white ethnicity, 16.2% were of BAME ethnicity and 0.7% had mixed ethnicity.
The remaining 9.5% had no stated or identifiable ethnicity.
The 16.2% figure for BAME ethnicity breaks down as:
Indian – 3.0%
Pakistani – 2.1%
Bangladeshi – 0.6%
Any other Asian background – 1.6%
Caribbean – 2.9%
African – 1.9%
Any other black background – 0.9%
Chinese – 0.4%
Any other ethnic group – 2.8%.
Deaths in Scotland rise to 915
In Scotland, 915 patients have died, up by 12 from 903 on Sunday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told reporters.
Ms Sturgeon said 8,450 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 263 from 8,187 the day before.
There are 169 people in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, a decrease of five on Sunday, she added.
There are 1,809 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
Wales reports death toll of 584
Health officials in Wales said another nine people had died, bringing the total number of deaths there to 584.
A further 276 people in Wales had tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 7,546.
Just over 900 tests were carried out on Sunday, with a total of 26,091 carried out in total across Wales.
Dr Giri Shankar, from Public Health Wales, said: “Based on the new case numbers there is emerging evidence suggesting a levelling-off in the number of new cases of Covid-19 in Wales, which may be an indication of the effectiveness of lockdown measures.
“However, it is still too early to tell for sure, and it is too soon to end the current social distancing rules.
“Public Health Wales continues to fully support the extension of lockdown measures, which is essential to avoid reversing the gains we have made in slowing the spread of this virus, protecting our NHS, and saving lives.”
Some 21,626 people in England, Wales and Scotland were tested for coronavirus in the 24 hours up to 9am on Sunday, Downing Street said.
Testing capacity dipped to 36,000 – from 38,000 last week – over the same 24-hour period, but the PM’s spokesman said this was due to commercial laboratories implementing new processes.
“That’s not a permanent dip,” the spokesman said.
More than 88,000 NHS and social care staff and their relatives have now been tested.
The spokesman added that the Government believes it is “on course” to meet the target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.
Government blasted for PPE shortages
The Government faced heavy criticism again as PPE supplies remained critically low at hospitals where doctors and nurses are being exposed to the potentially deadly virus.
More than 60 health workers have died during the crisis.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said there was “relatively low confidence” that the shipment from Turkey would arrive on Monday.
It was due to leave on Sunday but was delayed.
The NHS is thought to use around 150,000 gowns a day, meaning the 400,000 arriving from Turkey would last less than three days.
The Government said it had secured 25 million pieces of PPE from China, but did not say when the gear would be delivered or if it would arrive all at once or in individual shipments.
Mr Hopson said trusts are being forced into “hand-to-mouth” workarounds, including washing single-use gowns and restricting stocks to key areas.
He told the BBC that trusts were reserving the stock of fluid-resistant gowns they do have for areas of high clinical risk, such as intensive care units, and using workarounds in other areas.
NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said: “It would have been better had the Government not made the announcement in the first place” and said staff would need to make their own assessment over whether they felt safe with the PPE currently on offer.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he was hopeful the gowns would still arrive, telling BBC Breakfast: “We are very hopeful that later today that flight will take off and we will get those gowns.
“We are working very hard to resolve this, there have been challenges at the Turkish end.
“I don’t want to start making more and more promises but I understand that that flight will take off this afternoon and they will be delivered.”
He said the Government had procured another 25 million gowns from China and they would arrive “shortly as well”.
Fears of second peak if lockdown eased
In other developments, Downing Street said that moving too quickly in easing lockdown measures could lead to a second peak in the virus outbreak.
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In response to reports about Boris Johnson favouring a cautious approach to lifting restrictions, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The big concern is a second peak.
“That is what ultimately will do the most damage to health and the most damage to the economy. If you move too quickly then the virus could begin to spread exponentially again.
“The public will expect us to do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives.”
Decisions on the lockdown will be based on advice from Sage – the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – which is due by the end of the month.
Asked whether the lockdown restrictions could be modified rather than lifted entirely, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “If you move too quickly, lifting the social distancing measures wholesale, then that could lead to the virus spreading exponentially again.”
He pointed to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s suggestion that the next steps could involve relaxing measures in some areas while strengthening them in others.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will set out “towards the end of this week” a framework which will guide its lifting of lockdown measures.
She said: “I want to be clear, however, that the initial version of this work will not set out what measures will be lifted and when.
“We are simply not yet in the position to take those decisions in a properly informed way.”
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford warned that if there was not a UK-wide agreement once the next three-week review of the lockdown was due, Wales could go it alone.
He said: “I have always said that moving together across the UK is the best way of doing things for Wales,” he said.
“If we can’t secure it and we need to make decisions for ourselves that is of course what we will do.”
Sir Keir Starmer pressed Mr Raab in the planning around lifting the coronavirus lockdown during a “constructive” call with opposition leaders, a Labour spokesman said.
The spokesman added: “During the call, the Labour leader raised his concerns about the availability of PPE to key workers and asked how the Government would address the current shortages of supply.
“He also asked how confident the Government was on hitting the target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.
“Keir Starmer reiterated his support for the Government’s decision to extend the lockdown, but asked what planning was being put in place for when the restrictions are lifted.”
Mr Raab is still deputising for Mr Johnson while the Prime Minister continues his recovery from Covid-19.
A spokesman said Mr Johnson is receiving daily written updates on the coronavirus response as he continues his recovery at Chequers but is not doing Government work.
The spokesman refused to be drawn on when Mr Johnson would return to work, but said he would be “guided by the advice of his medical team”.
The Government has denied there are any plans for schools in England to reopen soon, with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson saying on Sunday there was no set date for pupils to go back.
The scheme for workers who have been furloughed – given a temporary leave of absence – has launched, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £1.25 billion package to aid companies in the innovation sector.
The UK has been asked to hold a minute’s silence for key workers who have died on the front line of the fight against Covid-19.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he regarded proposals for a time of national reflection to be a “very good idea” and that his department was “looking into it”.
It follows calls from the Labour Party and healthcare unions to honour those who have died.
The Duke of Edinburgh has made a rare public statement, praising those tackling the coronavirus pandemic across the UK and keeping essential services running.
Philip, 98, who retired from public duties in 2017, said he wanted to recognise the “vital and urgent” medical and scientific work taking place.
Teams at Oxford University and Imperial College London are in a race with experts around the world to develop a vaccine for Covid-19.
Oxford hopes to begin human trials this week while Imperial College expects to begin its trials in June.
It is hoped that a vaccine would be ready by this autumn.
A group of medics have called on people to make their own face masks to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The campaign group Masks4All has suggested that home-made masks can slow the spread of Covid-19.
But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that there is no evidence to support the use of masks in the general population.
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It has been reported that the carrier is asking for up to £500 million of public money.