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Boris Johnson is still self-isolating with Covid-19 symptoms. PA Images

A further 684 people die in the UK as Covid-19 death toll there exceeds 3,600

The Queen is set to address the nation over the crisis on Sunday night.

LAST UPDATE | 3 Apr 2020

A TOTAL OF 3,605 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm yesterday, with the latest figures announced this afternoon up by 684 from 2,921 the day before.

It means that the number of deaths in the UK rose over 20% in a single day.

The UK’s Department of Health said that, as of 9am today, a total of 173,784 people have been tested of which 38,168 tested positive.

However, Public Health England has also confirmed that 11,764 tests were carried out yesterday with the British government vowing yesterday to increase that to 100,000 a day. 

It comes as the UK government said earlier today it was rushing to build more emergency field hospitals ahead of an expected surge in coronavirus cases.

Two new facilities will be built in Bristol in the west and Harrogate in the north to house up to 1,500 patients, the state-run National Health Service (NHS) said in a statement.

The announcement came as a similar 4,000-bed facility in London – built in less than ten days – prepared to open today, and as criticism mounts over the government’s failure to provide screening, particularly for frontline healthcare workers.

coronavirus Ambulance crews await the first patients at the ExCel centre in London which is being made into the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital Stefan Rousseau / PA Images Stefan Rousseau / PA Images / PA Images

“Further such hospitals will open next in Birmingham and Manchester, offering up to 3,000 beds between them,” the NHS statement added.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Britain will “massively increase testing” for the Covid-19 virus following criticism of his initial light-touch approach to the outbreak.

Johnson has been in self-isolation “with mild symptoms” at his Downing Street official residence since announcing on 27 March that he had caught the virus.

In a video address on social media today, the prime minister said he understood “everybody may be getting a bit stir crazy”, particularly if they have children in the house, and people may want to “hang out” over the weekend.

However, Johnson warned Britons to “stick with the guidance” in a bid to help ease the pressure on the NHS.

Heir to the throne Prince Charles yesterday made his first public comments since coming out of self-quarantine after contracting the disease, telling the PA news agency the experience had been “strange, frustrating and often distressing”.

In a video message, he praised the “utter, selfless devotion to duty” of Britain’s health workers. The Prince of Wales is also set to open the Nightingale hospital in London today.

His mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is set to appear in a rare address to the nation at 8pm on Sunday evening to deliver a message about the coronavirus crisis. 

Growing backlash

Johnson is facing criticism even in normally supportive media outlets after officials revealed that just 2,000 out of about 500,000 NHS staff had been tested.

Health minister Matt Hancock said yesterday the government was “determined” to scale up tests across the board in the coming weeks, with a “goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month”.

Hancock blamed global demand for swabs and reagents for the lack of tests, and said that some they had bought were faulty.

This morning, the Daily Mail said that Hancock’s pledge of 100,000 tests a day were “fine words” but urged in its headline: “Don’t fail this test, minister.”

Tweet by @Daily Mail U.K. Daily Mail U.K. / Twitter Daily Mail U.K. / Twitter / Twitter

The Sun, meanwhile, criticised an empty test site while reporting that swabs from UK patients are being sent to Germany with the headline “Bad to wurst”. 

In order to meet the demand, the government said it would work with private firms such as Amazon and chemist Boots, and that three new “mega labs” would soon be online.

Testing for the general public has also been criticised as not widespread enough and is currently largely limited to hospital admissions of the most serious COVID-19 patients.

On Tuesday, 10,000 hospital patients and NHS staff were tested in England, well below the daily target of 25,000 and the 70,000 a day achieved in Germany, which has been used as a comparison.

Paul Nurse, chief executive of biomedical research centre the Francis Crick Institute, told the BBC yesterday that the government should summon “the Dunkirk spirit” and let “small ship” labs start screening for the killer disease.

So far, Public Health England (PHE), the body tasked with testing, has insisted all screening should be carried out centrally.

uk-health-secretary-matt-hancock-presser-in-london UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock Pippa Fowles / DPA/PA Images Pippa Fowles / DPA/PA Images / DPA/PA Images

PHE medical director Professor Paul Cosford defended his organisation’s work.

“At the very outset we identified this, we got the tests in place, we designed the tests in our laboratories. We have played our part,” he told BBC radio.

Britain is currently in the second week of a three-week lockdown, with non-essential shops shut and the public asked to stay at home to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The government has promised an enormous package of support for businesses and employees hit by the measures.

New UK government figures show 950,000 people applied for state welfare support known as universal credit in the last two weeks. It is available to the unemployed and those on low incomes.

With economic headwinds gathering pace, national carrier British Airways is also to temporarily lay off 28,000 staff, the union representing its workers announced yesterday.

Hancock, meanwhile, demanded that English Premier League footballers take a pay cut amid outrage at top flight clubs using a government furlough scheme for non-playing staff.

© – AFP 2020

With reporting from PA

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