Another 427 people have died of coronavirus in hospitals across the UK, taking the total to at least 23,288
The number was updated after England recorded another 352 hospital deaths, Scotland reported 40 deaths, while 17 were recorded in Wales and 18 in Northern Ireland.
The Government is due to announce a significantly higher total later today after the Department of Health began including deaths in care homes and the wider community in its official figures. As of yesterday, the number was 26,711, including hospital and care home deaths.
That number combined with today’s hospital figures means over 27,000 people across the UK have now lost their lives to Covid-19.
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With the UK’s coronavirus death toll now the third highest in the world after the US and Italy, Downing Street is playing down any expectations of an easing of restrictions. No10 is set to publish an exit strategy next week but has refused to put a timeline on when this could be triggered, saying the UK must pass five tests before restrictions can be loosened.
At his first Downing Street press conference since beating Covid-19, Boris Johnson said we are ‘past the peak’ of the virus but warned relaxing measures too soon would undo the hard work of the British public who have obeyed stay at home rules for the past six weeks.
Meanwhile, England’s Chief medical officer warned a second wave of coronavirus could be ‘more severe’ than the first and spread more rapidly if it hits the UK in winter.
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Every country seeking to ease lockdown measures now must negotiate an ‘extremely difficult balancing act’ to keep the pandemic under control in the months to come, Professor Chris Whitty said.
In an online Gresham College lecture, Mr Whitty said the virus reproduction rate – the ‘R’ number – must be kept below one, meaning each infected person could expect to pass it to fewer than one other person on average.
He told the press conference on Thursday that the R number was now believed to be at between 0.6 – 0.9 across the country.
Prof Whitty said: ‘We need to make sure that R does not go back above one. Because if not we will go back to a second wave.
‘It is entirely plausible for a second wave to actually be more severe than the first if it is not mitigated. ‘Every country has got an extremely difficult balancing act, and we all need to be honest about the fact there are no easy solutions here.
‘Covid-19 is a very long way from finished and eradication is technically impossible for this disease.’
This comes as figures show coronavirus deaths rates as twice as high for people living in deprived areas of England compared to the richest areas.
An analysis from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows of the deaths involving Covid-19 that took place between March 1 and April 17, the mortality rate in the poorest communities was 55.1 deaths per 100,000 population.
By contrast, the rate was 25.3 deaths per 100,000 in the most affluent areas
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