UK coronavirus deaths soar to 55 as 20 more die in the last 24 hours

The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK has risen to 55 – a jump of 20 cases.

The UK death toll yesterday was 35 amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.

A 68-year-old in Wales yesterday became the first person to die from the virus in the country.

Some 53 people have now died from the disease in England, with two deaths in Scotland and Wales bringing the UK-wide death count to 55.

Speaking in the Commons today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the pandemic is "the most serious public health emergency that our nation has faced for a generation".

Mr Hancock added: "The disease is now accelerating and 53 have sadly now died. Our hearts across this whole House go out to their families.

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"Our policy is to fight this virus with everything we've got. We'll give the NHS whatever it needs and we will do whatever it takes.

"We'll get through this by working through our action plan to contain, delay, research and mitigate the virus and that plan has two overriding aims – to protect the NHS by building it up and flattening the curve and to protect life by safeguarding those who are most vulnerable."

Mr Hancock said people should "still go to work" if they are healthy and not being asked to isolate due to them or a member of their household having symptoms of the virus.

He told MPs: "It's important this country keeps moving as much as we possibly can within the limits of the advice that we have given."

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On the shielding measures for the elderly and most vulnerable, he said: "For those who have significant health conditions, the NHS will be in contact with you over the next week.

"We'll publish a list of those conditions and if you think you should have been contacted and you haven't by next week, then get in contact with the NHS."

Speaking at a press conference today, Boris Johnson said people should stop all non-essential contact with others to stem the spread of the disease.

The Prime Minister urged Londoners in particular to stay away from their offices where possible and to avoid confined spaces such as pubs, restaurants and theatres.

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Mr Johnson hammered home the significance of the announcement, claiming it was the first social change of its kind in peacetime. 

He said it was not compulsory to follow the advice, although he added that the Government had 'tremendous powers', including the ability to ban handshakes.

Those with the 'most serious health conditions' have been advised to avoid nearly all social contact for 12 weeks.

No 10 will no longer be supporting mass gatherings with emergency workers from tomorrow, Mr Johnson revealed today.

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He also told people to stop visiting care homes unless it was absolutely necessary.

Yesterday the Health Secretary said over-70s could be asked to self-isolate for four months as health authorities try to contain the spread of the illness.

More than 6,000 people have died across the world.

The outbreak has seen major disruption to the global economy and travel, as businesses struggle and workers are sent home.

Some airlines are warning they could face bankruptcy as they are forced to cancel flights en masse as countries follow China and Italy into dramatic lock-down measures.

In the UK, shoppers are struggling to fill their pantries as stock-piling panic empties supermarket shelves and sparks tense scenes in the aisles.

Many of the country's leading supermarkets today published a full-page ad in national newspapers pleading with shoppers to remain calm and be wary of the effect of hoarding on others.

Some chains have imposed buying restrictions amid the panic, which has seen shelves stripped of supplies like toilet paper, soap, hand sanitiser, pasta and tinned goods.

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