Britain suffers its worst day yet in coronavirus crisis as 708 die

Britain suffers its worst day yet in coronavirus crisis as 708 die in one day taking total to 4,313 but number of new infections rises by just 3,735 – smallest increase in four days

  • The amount of tests fell to 9,406, whereas the last two days recorded more than 10,000 daily tests
  • Deaths in Scotland rose 46 to 218, Wales rose by 13 to 154 and Northern Ireland rose eight to 56 
  • Prof Neil Ferguson braced public for weeks more of high cases, but said lockdown could be relaxed in May 
  • This is dependent on people obeying social distancing, but cylcists were seen flocking to parks today

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A further 708 people have died with coronavirus in Britain, bringing the country’s fatalities to 4,313 in the deadliest day yet.

The number of new infections also rose by 3,735 to 41,903, which is the smallest 24-hour increase in cases in four days. 

But the amount of tests fell to 9,406, whereas the last two days recorded more than 10,000 daily tests.

Michael Gove will confirm the grim figures at this afternoon’s Downing Street press briefing, as the government appeals to opposition parties for input into Whitehall’s coronavirus battle plan.

Victims in Scotland who have died after contracting coronavirus hit 218, up 46.

Public Health Wales said 13 more deaths of people who had tested positive have been reported in Wales, taking the number of deaths in in the nation to 154. 

And the number of people who have died in Northern Ireland after contracting coronavirus has risen by eight to 56.

Public Health England is expected to release its daily regional breakdown of cases later today. 

Professor Neil Ferguson this morning braced the public for ‘weeks and weeks’ of high case numbers, but in a glimmer of hope said social distancing could be relaxed by the end of May if people continue to obey the lockdown rules.

Yet despite revealing that movement outside of the household has dropped by 85 per cent, pictures today showed cyclists flocking to parks in the warm weather.

Ministers are begging the public to stay at home and not ‘lose discipline’ so the NHS does not become overwhelmed with an influx of cases.   

Yesterday the UK reached a bleak milestone in its health crisis when the death tally surpassed the number reported by China, where the virus spawned last year, although the figures released by Beijing are contested. 

 As the UK mourned the deaths of a further 708 people in the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Boris Johnson appealed to rival political parties to work together in a moment of national emergency; 
  • Sir Keir Starmer was elected as Labour leader and accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to a Number 10 coronavirus briefing, and vowed to engage constructively with the government;
  • Cyclists were seen flocking to parks across the nation in the warm weather, despite ministers pleading with the public to stay indoors;
  • Professor Neil Ferguson said the UK could ease some lockdown restrictions at the end of May and move to a strategy of testing and contact tracing;
  • His colleague, Professor Graham Medley, said the lockdown has pinned Britain ‘into a corner’ with no obvious exit strategy;
  • The massive Nightingale Hospital in London opened for its first full day of operation after it was unveiled by Prince Charles via videolink yesterday;
  • Boxer Anthony Yarde’s grandmother died of coronavirus just days after the disease killed his dad;
  • A member of the armed forces became the first case of coronavirus on the Falkland Islands. The British overseas territory’s government said: ‘An inpatient in the hospital who is in isolation has tested positive for the Covid-19 virus’;
  • Princess Eugenie’s father-in-law George Brooksbank, 71, was taken into intensive care with coronavirus as his wife also battled the deadly disease.
Paramedics wearing personal protective equipment transports a patient in to The Royal London Hospital in East London

Paramedics wearing personal protective equipment transports a patient in to The Royal London Hospital in East London

Cyclists in Regents park have been ignoring the government's social distancing rules by riding in close proximity to each other. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on people this weekend to stay at home, though these riders in Regent's Park were today taking advantage of the bright spring weather

Cyclists in Regents park have been ignoring the government’s social distancing rules by riding in close proximity to each other. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on people this weekend to stay at home, though these riders in Regent’s Park were today taking advantage of the bright spring weather 

People enjoy the sunshine on the seafront at Brighton, West Sussex, despite Boris Johnson's pleas for them to stay at home

People enjoy the sunshine on the seafront at Brighton, West Sussex, despite Boris Johnson’s pleas for them to stay at home

The government is desperately trying to squash the daily spike in cases with an unprecedented strategy of social distancing. 

But the lockdown has pinned Britain ‘into a corner’ with no obvious exit strategy, according to a senior Downing Street scientific adviser who braced the country for a return to a policy of herd immunity. 

Professor Graham Medley, the government’s chief pandemic modeller, said the only viable path through the health emergency would be to let people become infected so they are no longer vulnerable. 

He warned the current restrictions would not steer the country out of the pandemic – only prevent a short-term spread – but would bring the economy to its knees.

Mounting unemployment, domestic violence and burgeoning mental health issues could be widespread if the normal functioning of society remains paralysed, Prof Medley forecast.

Describing a trade-off between harming the lives of the young versus safeguarding the wellbeing of the elderly, the scientist said the Prime Minister had a ‘big decision’ to make on April 13 when the lockdown will be reviewed.    

Yet noises from Number 10 suggests the current curbs to everyday life will not be lifted, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday urging the public to ‘keep their discipline’.

He begged Britons to stay indoors ahead of a warm weekend as the UK – but pictures today showed cyclists flocking to parks.

Professor Ferguson, who is also advising the government, said that he hopes the current restrictions could be eased by the end of May, but it would certainly not be ‘a return to normal life’.

This morning, he told the BBC’s Today programme: ‘I don’t think anyone wants to lift measures at the current time and risk the epidemic getting worse.

‘But if we see a rapid decline in cases, then of course the government will consider if they can relax those measures and modify certain measures in a way which is safe and still ensures the epidemic goes down.’  

Professor Graham Medley, the government's chief pandemic modeller, says Britain may still need to adopt herd immunity

Professor Graham Medley, the government’s chief pandemic modeller, says Britain may still need to adopt herd immunity

A red London bus travels past closed-down shops on an empty Regent Street in London. Mounting unemployment, domestic violence and burgeoning mental health issues could be widespread if the normal functioning of society remains paralysed, Prof Medley forecast

A red London bus travels past closed-down shops on an empty Regent Street in London. Mounting unemployment, domestic violence and burgeoning mental health issues could be widespread if the normal functioning of society remains paralysed, Prof Medley forecast

As coronavirus began to take a choke-hold on the UK last month, the government mooted the concept of herd immunity as a method of beating back the disease by allowing 80 per cent of the country to become infected.

Herd immunity is when enough people become resistant to a disease – through vaccination or previous exposure – that it can no longer significantly spread among the rest of the population.

The concept first entered the UK’s phraseology when the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance mentioned it in a broadcast interview.

Sir Patrick told the BBC on March 13: ‘Our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission.’ 

But two days later, Health Secretary Matt Hancock clarified that herd immunity was not a government policy. 

‘Herd immunity is not a part of it. That is a scientific concept, not a goal or a strategy,’ he wrote in a newspaper article.

But Prof Medley is now warning that the controversial method may be the only solution as under his modelling, simply allowing people suddenly back to work or school would cause a resurgence in cases of the virus.

He said an antibody test, which shows whether a person has had the virus and could therefor be immune, could help, but that one had never before been used in the management of such an outbreak.

A professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, he told the Times: ‘This disease is so nasty that we had to suppress it completely.

‘Then we’ve kind of painted ourselves into a corner, because then the question will be what do we do now?’

First coronavirus case on the Falkand Islands 

A member of the armed forces has become the first confirmed coronavirus case on the Falkland Islands.

Brigadier Nick Sawyer, Commander of British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI), said the patient, who has not been named, is in a stable condition in the remote archipelago’s hospital.

They became unwell at Mount Pleasant Complex, a Royal Air Force base on the British territory.

Brigadier Sawyer said: ‘The individual followed all the correct processes and self-isolated when they started to show symptoms. They were closely monitored and after a deterioration in their condition the individual was transferred to KMH (King Edward VII Memorial Hospital).

‘Mount Pleasant Complex and Ascension Island continue to implement the same strict isolation and social distancing measures as the UK and these are also aligned with the Falkland Islands Government direction.

‘This is a timely reminder that we must all continue to be self-disciplined with our personal health procedures and observe social distancing.’

The Falkland Islands Government said in a statement that the patient is not on a ventilator.

Six British Army medics have been deployed to the Falkland Islands this week to give support during the coronavirus pandemic. 

He said there was a ‘big decision’ to be made on April 13, when the government reviews the lockdown measures.

‘In broad terms are we going to continue to harm children to protect vulnerable people, or not?’ he said.

Prof Medley, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), added: ‘The measures to control [the disease] cause harm.

‘The principal one is economic, and I don’t mean to the economy generally, I mean to the incomes of people who rely on a continuous stream of money and their children, particularly the school closure aspect.’

He said there will be ‘actual harms’ in terms of mental health, domestic violence, child abuse and food poverty. and lockdown ‘buys more time’ but ‘doesn’t resolve anything’, he said.

Responding to Prof Medley’s assessment, his Sage colleague Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘I wouldn’t put it as bleakly as that. There is a lot of work currently so we can substitute some of the social distancing currently in place for a regime more based on intensive testing, rapid access to testing, contact tracing of contacts. 

‘But in order to substitute that regime for what we’re doing now we need to get case numbers down. We can’t do it when we have as many people being infected as is currently happening.

‘So we need to get numbers down… but I’m hopeful that in a few weeks time we can move to a regime which will not be normal life but will be more relaxed in terms of the economy but be more based on testing.’ 

He added that data had revealed an 85 per cent drop in social movement of the public, and added his voice to the chorus of people calling for Britons to stay indoors this warm weekend.

If people do continue to flout social distancing rules, public parks could be shut, according to a Telegraph source. 

It comes as the UK announced 684 more coronavirus deaths on Friday, taking the total number of fatalities to 3,605.

Yet again the number is a record one-day high – this has been the case almost every day this week, with each day since Tuesday announcing more victims than the last.

The new numbers mean the number of people dead from COVID-19 in the UK has risen five-fold in a week, from just 759 last Friday, March 27.

MAMIL madness: Cyclists ride close together through Regents Park in London and parks and beaches fill up around the country despite Boris Johnson and police begging Britain to stay indoors this weekend

By Rebecca Camber and Tom Payne for the Daily Mail and Darren Boyle for MailOnline

Scores of people ignored the Prime Minister’s plea to stay at home to save the NHS by congregating in groups and enjoy the weekend’s good weather. 

With temperatures heading for the mid to high 60s, health chiefs were afraid people would ignore the government’s coronavirus lockdown rules, jeopardising the strategy of limiting the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus. 

Officials warn the lockdown may have to be extended if people continue to ignore the advice to stay at home and only go out for essential reasons. 

In London’s Regent Park, dozens of ‘Middle-Aged Men in Lycra’ (MAMILs) ignored the Government’s Covid-19 lockdown rules to congregate in Regent’s Park in London to ride their bicycles in large groups. 

Groups of men, clad in lycra, riding in close formation. Across in Paddington, keep fit fans were photographed training in a recreation ground – again ignoring social distancing rules.  

In Cambridge, groups of people lazed on the banks of the River Cam enjoying the sunshine. 

Groups of people were also spotted in Brighton, jeopardising the government’s Covid-19 strategy.   

Police chiefs have warned that people breaching the coronavirus lockdown rules face being fined.

Forces plan to step up patrols in beauty spots and major routes to the coast, as officers warn ‘lockdown in Easter shouldn’t be much different from lockdown’ on any other day.

On the River Cam in Cambridge this morning people ignored government advice and enjoyed the warm spring weather

On the River Cam in Cambridge this morning people ignored government advice and enjoyed the warm spring weather

Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London has warned the predicted plateau of the virus within the next week to ten days will not happen if people continue to flout the rules. 

He said the infection rate will remain high for ‘weeks and weeks’ if the general public ignore the restrictions.

This afternoon, the Department of Health confirmed 4,313 people have died in hospital in the UK having been infected with Covid-19. 

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, from Devon and Cornwall Police, has encouraged people to stay home during the good weather this weekend.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘This is a national endeavour, everyone plays their part, it’s the time to put others before self and we’re seeing so many people across local government doing their part, the NHS of course.

‘But it’s actually the public, the millions of people, to put others before self to be selfless, not selfish.’

Chief Constable Sawyer said his officers would in the first instance ‘explain’ and ‘encourage’ people to abide by the Government guidelines on essential travel.

He explained: ‘When we come to enforcement, that really is a last resort because, in a way, if we come to enforcement then everybody has failed to understand the significance of this endeavour.

‘It’s not just visitors, even within my 4,000 square miles I’ve got my own population that really just want to jump in the car and travel.

‘They want to go to the moors they want to go to the beaches.’

He described this weekend as ‘a time to remember the importance of stay at home and save lives’.

Chief Constable Sawyer added: ‘Where we are seeing gatherings on the beach we will first enquire because that gathering might be a family.

‘We mustn’t assume and jump to policing by judgment, we have to have a conversation.

‘We’ll encourage people to go home, to separate, to isolate.

‘But, equally, if groups really will not listen, then enforcement is a last resort.’

Chief Constable Sawyer said Devon and Cornwall’s 700 miles of coastline is ‘unpoliceable other than by the public themselves’.

He added: ‘Of course, we’ll focus on core areas, we’re certainly looking at the arterial roads into the South West – the M4, M5, A303 and then, within the peninsular, the A30.

‘But that is a very small workforce.

‘Devon and Cornwall police requires the public both within and outside our geography to play their part.

‘When they do gather … we will talk, we’ll converse, and, if needs be, as a last resort we’ll enforce.’ 

On Friday, England’s chief nursing officer, Ruth May, urged people to think of two nurses who died after contracting coronavirus and ‘stay home for them’.

Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke, both mothers of three children, died alongside two healthcare assistants, it was announced on Friday.

Cyclists, dog walkers and pedestrians were all exercising along the banks of the River Cam in Cambridge today

Cyclists, dog walkers and pedestrians were all exercising along the banks of the River Cam in Cambridge today 

Exercise fans were out in force in London's Regent's Park this morning despite the government's plea to stay at home

Exercise fans were out in force in London’s Regent’s Park this morning despite the government’s plea to stay at home 

Ms May, speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, said: ‘This weekend is going to be very warm and it will be very tempting to go out and enjoy those summer rays.

‘But please, I ask you to remember Aimee and Areema. Please stay at home for them.’

She added: ‘I worry that there’s going to be more and I want to honour them today and recognise their service.’

Meanwhile, in his letter to opposition leaders, released just before the announcement about the Labour leadership election result, the PM said: ‘As party leaders, we have a duty to work together at this moment of national emergency.

‘Therefore, I would like to invite all leaders of opposition parties in Parliament to a briefing with myself, the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser next week.

‘I want to listen to your views and update you on the measures we have taken so far, such as rapidly expanding testing and providing economic support to businesses and individuals across the country.’

An officer on Brighton beach approached this couple who were having a picnic on the pebbles overlooking the sea

An officer on Brighton beach approached this couple who were having a picnic on the pebbles overlooking the sea 

An officer advised this dog walker and a group of walkers who were enjoying the sunshine this afternoon in Greenwich

An officer advised this dog walker and a group of walkers who were enjoying the sunshine this afternoon in Greenwich 

Groups of men were spotted riding through Regents Park in London today despite pleas for them to stay at home

Groups of men were spotted riding through Regents Park in London today despite pleas for them to stay at home

Tourism bosses have warned the warm weather this weekend may tempt families into flouting the rules. Petrol prices have also plummeted in recent weeks to as little as 99p a litre in some places.

Highways England said people appeared to be heeding instructions and staying clear of the road network. 

A spokesman said: ‘As people follow government advice to stay at home if possible, traffic volumes and incidents appear to be reducing. Maintaining a safe road network is our priority and that’s what our on-road teams, control room staff, and the people who support them, are all working hard to do.’ 

Gloucestershire Police said officers would be stopping motorists who appear to be heading on holiday, such as those towing caravans.

The force said there had been particular concern in some rural areas that second home owners will be visiting over the Easter holiday. Yesterday, Boris Johnson said he understood ‘everybody may be getting a bit stir crazy’. 

The National Police Chiefs Council has released it's guidance for officers enforcing the social distancing lockdown rules

The National Police Chiefs Council has released it’s guidance for officers enforcing the social distancing lockdown rules 

These people were training this morning at the Paddington Recreation Ground in London, despite the restrictions

These people were training this morning at the Paddington Recreation Ground in London, despite the restrictions 

People exercising at the Paddington Recreation Ground appeared to be ignoring social distancing rules as they kept in shape

People exercising at the Paddington Recreation Ground appeared to be ignoring social distancing rules as they kept in shape

But the Prime Minister pleaded with Britons to ‘stick with the guidance’ to avoid an NHS meltdown. 

He said: ‘I reckon a lot of people will be starting to think that this is all going on for quite a long time and would rather be getting out there, particularly if you’ve got kids in the household, everybody may be getting a bit stir crazy, and there may be just a temptation to get out there, hang out and start to break the regulations.

‘I just urge you not to do that. Please, please stick with the guidance now.’ 

Public spaces, including ‘major parks’, could be closed if people keep flouting the rules, according to a Government source quoted by the Daily Telegraph. The Met Office has forecast sunny spells today and tomorrow, with temperatures set to reach 20C (68F) in some parts of the country.

Over in north west London, large groups of NHS workers queued outside the IKEA store in Brent Park, Neasden waiting for coronavirus testing

Over in north west London, large groups of NHS workers queued outside the IKEA store in Brent Park, Neasden waiting for coronavirus testing 

The staff, who need a prior appointment, dive up to the tester who swabs their nose and the back of their throat

The staff, who need a prior appointment, dive up to the tester who swabs their nose and the back of their throat 

Yesterday a number of police forces announced extra high-visibility patrols. Humberside Chief Constable Lee Freeman said: ‘I ask that people do not allow themselves to be tempted to become complacent.’

Under the public health regulations, anyone caught outside without a good reason faces a £60 fine or possible arrest.

In France, tens of thousands of extra police have been deployed and road blocks set up for Easter. Health Secretary Matt Hancock declined to rule out following the French example of having police at stations checking people’s movements.

The Welsh government will introduce a law forcing all employers to make sure their workers keep 6ft apart, the first of its kind in the UK.

In Bedfordshire, local police posted this photograph today of Bedford Embankment which was completely deserted

In Bedfordshire, local police posted this photograph today of Bedford Embankment which was completely deserted 

Cumbria Police have posted photographs of an empty Windermere as people in the Lake District heed the lockdown call

Cumbria Police have posted photographs of an empty Windermere as people in the Lake District heed the lockdown call

 

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