Another 563 people have died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus – bringing the total number of deaths to 2,352.
The deaths happened in the 24 hours before 5pm on Tuesday, the Department of Health said.
The number of deaths in each country is:
- Scotland: 16 more deaths – a total of 76
- Wales: 29 more deaths – a total of 98
- England: 486 more deaths – a total of 2,137
- Northern Ireland: two more deaths – a total of 30
NHS England said those who died in England were aged between 13 and 99-years-old, with 20 of the 486 patients – aged between 13 and 93-years-old – having no known underlying health condition.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said on Monday she was anticipating the number of deaths to “get worse over the next week, possibly two” before they decline due to people adhering to the lockdown and social distancing measures.
The Department of Health said 29,474 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Tuesday, 4,324 more than the 24 hours before.
NHS England’s national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said there were some “green shoots” with the number of new infections hitting a “little bit of a plateau”.
He said even if that was sustained, the number of deaths would continue to rise for some time to come.
“It’s early days, we’re not out of the woods, we’re very very much in the woods,” he said.
Pressure is increasing on the government to increase COVID-19 testing after ministers claimed last week a target of 10,000 tests per day had been hit, when only around 8,000 are currently being carried out.
Frontline NHS workers have expressed frustration over being forced to self-isolate when they are most needed, because tests are not available to show whether they are clear of the disease.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said more than 2,000 NHS staff have now been tested. There are about half a million frontline NHS staff.
“We’re very clear that we want more testing to be carried out, and that we are working with NHS England, Public Health England and others to ensure that happens.”
On Wednesday, health secretary Matt Hancock said he was scrapping a cap instigated earlier this week that meant NHS trusts needed to focus on testing patients in hospital and could only use up to 15% of an spare testing capacity for NHS staff.
In a letter to trusts from NHS England, it said lab capacity is now increasing so “we now can and must further increase staff case testing”.
“We want to max-out all available capacity in doing so, and so are now removing the 15% cap immediately”.
Any trust with a lab able to test for coronavirus should be at capacity “each and every day”, it added.
The Army will help move samples and swabs around the country “as quickly as possible”. the letter said.
The government has blamed a global lack of reagants needed to carry out tests, although the British chemical industry said there were no shortages.
In the letter NHS England said it is “working hard” to secure the regants to “further increase capacity”.
By Alix Culbertson