THE UK coronavirus death toll today hit 28,734 as another 288 patients died in the lowest rise in more than a month.
The last time the UK recorded such a low 24 hour fatality rate was almost five weeks ago on March 28 when 214 deaths were reported.
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There is often a drop in Monday's figures due to a lag in reporting over the weekend with tomorrow's number likely to be higher.
Yet in a sure sign the UK is well on its way to beating the bug, less than a third of critical care beds are now occupied by coronavirus patients.
In England alone, 30 per cent of critical care beds are for patients battling the virus – down from more than 40 per cent a week ago.
And while the UK remains one of the worst hit by the bug, Brits are now looking towards lockdown potentially being eased after passing the virus' peak.
It comes as…
- England's excess death rate is one of the worst in Europe amid the coronavirus pandemic, new data shows
- Nicola Sturgeon today warned the R rate of transmission remains too high to lift lockdown
- Canteens could be closed and masks worn in offices under draft plans
- NHS Nightingale in London will be mothballed as the final patients leave this week
- Face masks are being stockpiled for the public
Speaking at the Downing Street daily press conference, Matt Hancock today said: "Our plan is to slow the spread and to protect the NHS so that the NHS is always there for you and your family.
"That goal is working."
Boris Johnson is expected to this week unveil his masterplan to exit lockdown and restart the economy.
Brits are expected to face massive changes when they go back to work as employers are urged to minimise the risk of a second peak.
Easing restrictions will see companies told to minimise the amount of staff using equipment, stagger shift times and maximise home-working.
The draft strategy also calls for the use physical screens and the use of protective equipment when staff cannot work two metres from each other.
The easing of restrictions could see members of the public told to wear facemasks, with ministers now stockpiling the personal protection equipment.
The total number of cases recorded in the UK today hit 190,584 after 3,985 additional cases were reported. Overall, there had been 1,291,591 tests.
STOPPING THE BUG
The UK's coronavirus death toll is the second highest in Europe – behind Italy where 29,079 coronavirus deaths have been recorded.
Today's figures saw England record 204 patients killed by the bug – the lowest increase since the day after lockdown was introduced.
The last time England recorded such a low 24 hour fatality rate in hospitals was six weeks ago on March 24 when 193 deaths were reported.
Today's numbers show an overall downward trend in coronavirus deaths, with England's death toll hitting 21,384, with the youngest patient recorded today including a 26-year-old.
Three of the 204 patients, aged between 41 and 58, had no underlying health conditions.
Today, Scotland's death toll rose by five, hitting 1,576 in total.
Meanwhile, Wales reported another 14 deaths, bringing the total to 997 and Northern Ireland recorded six new deaths.
But NHS Nightingale in London will be mothballed in just days as success in fighting the bug's spread left the 4,000 bed hospital nearly empty.
The facility in the ExCel centre, east London, will be placed on standby after the final patients leave this week.
Over the last week the number of people with COVID-19 in hospitals across Great Britain has fallen from 15,322 to 13,258, a decrease of 13 per cent.
According to figures for reported deaths, Britain has overtaken France, which has had 24,864 deaths and Spain, which has recorded 25,264 deaths.
And despite the worrying comparison, differences in how each country reports its data means that the grim-looking comparison might not be quite as it appears.
The UK is still way behind the US, which has suffered the most deadly outbreak in the world, with 67,448 already dead.
While these statistics make for grim reading for Brits, it is also vital to take into account the key differences in reporting data in different countries.
For example, Spain does not currently record care home deaths and only counts cases where there has been a positive test for the virus, the its real death toll may be much higher.
France also has lags in reporting its care home deaths, which it began to include at the start of this month.
Countries are also at different points of the pandemic, which makes direct comparisons difficult.
Coronavirus outbreaks in mainland Europe started a few weeks earlier than in the UK.
Official government charts have shown Britain with a steeper trend in deaths than other European countries.
Data suggests Britain has a higher death toll than France, Spain and Italy did at the same point of their outbreaks.
But the UK has a bigger population than Italy and Spain and slightly smaller than France.
Today's coronavirus death toll figures come as an expert warned thousands of people could die in the future as an "indirect" result of the pandemic.
Cancer patients whose screenings have been cancelled and Brits hit by the looming recession will be among the toll.
Sir Ian Diamond, Office for National Statistics head, spoke of “indirect deaths” caused by Covid-19 on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.
He said: “Changes in the prioritisation of the health service, for example, reductions in cancer screening, will lead to deaths over the next few years.
“If we have a lengthy and deep recession . . . that can lead to increased deaths as people are pushed into lengthy periods of unemployment.”
He said the high number of current deaths being seen was down to the UK having the world’s “best, most transparent and quickest recording”.
It came as ministers admitted the virus would have killed fewer if testing had started sooner.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps became the first Cabinet minister to say the toll would be lower if testing had been ramped up sooner.
Fellow Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the Government had made “mistakes.”
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