Coronavirus: Biggest rise in deaths in a day as UK total hits 177

Ajay Nair, news reporter

The number of people who have died in the UK after contracting coronavirus has risen to 177 after England saw 39 more deaths - the biggest rise in a day.

It comes after a third person - a 71-year-old with underlying health conditions - died in Wales after contracting COVID-19, according to authorities there on Friday morning.

Northern Ireland also confirmed testing there had resulted in nine new positive cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Northern Ireland to 86.

As of 9am on Friday, 3,983 had tested positive for COVID-19 across the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK "can turn the tide" against coronavirus in the next 12 weeks - but subsequently admitted the government "don't know how long" the crisis will last for.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference on Thursday, Mr Johnson revealed the government is in talks to buy "hundreds of thousands" of tests to reveal if people are immune.

He also said the first British patient had been put in a randomised trial for a treatment for COVID-19.

Mr Johnson thanked Britons for their "huge efforts" in complying with government advice on stopping the spread of the disease.

He said: "We're asking students to put their education on hold, we're asking people not to socialise in the normal way and already we can see the impact this is having on the UK economy and on business, on great, great companies.

"So it's vital that we in government stand behind them when what we are asking everyone to do is so crucial for saving literally thousands of lives by fighting this virus."

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged Britons to follow the government's coronavirus advice - saying life will return to normal more quickly if everyone does so.

He told Sky News that embracing social distancing measures will help the UK avoid "difficult situations" like those seen in Italy, where hospitals are overwhelmed with gravely ill patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

And with schools closing on Friday, the Department for Education published a list of "key workers" deemed "essential" to the COVID-19 response and whose children will continue to be cared for at school amid the pandemic.

But the NASUWT teachers' union's acting general secretary Chris Keates said schools had been plunged into "chaos and confusion as they try to answer such basic questions as who are the key workers, how do we identify their children, what evidence is it reasonable to request from parents and what happens if other children turn up for school".

He added: "Teachers are unclear whether they should be in work or out or what they will be expected to do if they are in work."