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Coronavirus: UK 'reaching the peak' as death toll stands at almost 13,000

A total of 12,868 people have died across the UK from Covid-19.

The UK's chief medical officer Chris Whitty.
The UK's chief medical officer Chris Whitty.
Image: PA

Updated Apr 15th 2020, 8:35 PM

ENGLAND’S CHIEF MEDICAL Officer has said he believes the UK coronavirus death toll, which now stands at almost 13,000, was approaching its peak but warned of grim figures to follow in the next 24 hours.

“On the issue of the peak, our view is that it is probably reaching the peak overall and that is what the flattening shows,” Professor Chris Whitty said at a daily government crisis news briefing when asked about the number of people losing their life.

But any optimism was tinged with the prospect that high fatality numbers “will continue”, Whitty said, confirming Britain as one of the worst affected countries by the global pandemic.

“I think it’s important, and I am saying this because new data will come out presumably tomorrow. My expectation would be that the number of deaths may well go up.”

Figures announced by the health ministry showed that 12,868 people in hospital have died from the coronavirus, a rise of 761 on the previous day.

That was slightly down from the 778 fatalities recorded yesterday but noticeably lower than a high of 980 deaths declared last Friday.

Six of the deaths announced today were in Northern Ireland, bringing the death toll there to 140. 

The number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK has now reached 98,476.

Whitty’s comments came ahead of a government decision, expected tomorrow, to extend the lockdown and renew a stay-at-home order imposed three weeks ago to stem the spread of Covid-19.

The government has come under increasing pressure in recent days over the death toll as charities and others said it did not reveal the true scale of the number of fatalities in British care homes.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Wednesday, at the same briefing, that people with relatives in care homes would be given the “right to say goodbye” if they were gravely ill with the virus.

“I’m pleased to say that working with Public Health England, the care sector and many others, we are introducing new procedures so we can limit the risk of infection while wherever possible giving people’s closest loved ones the chance to say goodbye,” he said.

‘People need hope’

Earlier in the day, Keir Starmer, the new leader of the opposition Labour Party, said it would support any government decision to extend the social distancing orders.

However, Starmer, who was elected Labour leader earlier this month, called on ministers to explain within a week their plan for easing restrictions, both to reassure the public and to give lawmakers time scrutinise it properly.

“People need hope, they need to know there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Starmer told BBC radio.

In a letter to the government, he also warned: “We cannot repeat mistakes that have already been made on testing and access to protective equipment.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has been criticised for not introducing the lockdown earlier, and for failing to properly prepare for the outbreak.

Medical staff and care homes still complain of a lack of protective equipment, while testing for coronavirus remains limited.

The government has promised 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month, but Starmer noted it was only at about 15,000 a day now.

“If (mass) testing is part of the answer, then we now know that plans need to be in place to ramp up testing,” he said.

Starmer formally set out his request in a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Johnson while the prime minister recovers from his own bout of coronavirus.

“This lockdown is not affecting people equally. In fact, it has exacerbated existing inequalities in our country,” Starmer wrote.

“A family living in an overcrowded flat will have particular challenges. And it is hard to imagine the daily horror of someone trapped in a home with his or her abuser.”

He asked Raab to set out clearly what criteria the government will use to inform the decision on how to ease the lockdown, and which economic sectors might be first to benefit.

However, a government source said it was too soon, saying: “Talk of an exit strategy before we have reached the peak risks confusing the critical message that people need to stay at home.”

© – AFP 2020

 

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