Coronavirus: Peak of UK's COVID-19 outbreak might come on Easter Sunday, says Matt Hancock
The peak of the UK's coronavirus outbreak - with as many as 1,000 deaths a day leading up to it - may come on Easter Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has suggested.
At the launch of the new makeshift NHS Nightingale Hospital in east London, Mr Hancock told Sky News it was "perfectly possible" the peak of the COVID-19 crisis in this country could occur around 12 April.
As of 5pm on Thursday, the total number of people to have died in the UK after contracting coronavirus stood at 3,605 - a rise in the tally of 684 in 24 hours.
It has been reported there could be 1,000 deaths every 24 hours until the coronavirus peak is reached in little more than a week's time.
Asked about those reports, Mr Hancock told Sky News on Friday: "I defer to the scientists on the predictions that they make.
"I'm not going to steer you away from that, I think that is one quite perfectly possible outcome.
"Of course there's uncertainty around that.
"Part of the challenge of communicating about this disease and our response to it is that there are a lot of things that we don't yet know and this is one of them.
"But we're prepared not only for that eventuality, but also in case it's worse than that.
"Because I want to make sure that the NHS is prepared for all reasonable outcomes as well as something that might be closer to the central projection."
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has warned the coronavirus peak in Scotland is still some way off.
The first minister said: "I want to be very clear that nothing I have seen gives me any basis whatsoever for predicting the virus will peak as early as a week's time here in Scotland."
And her chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood also stressed: "I have not been able to find that the peak will be as soon as we're hearing in the media today. Now is not the time to think that perhaps it will all be over soon.
"We have always said that many months will be needed before we can get on top of this virus and be sure that we're not going to have a worse scenario later."
She added: "At the moment we will not be able to give a clear date of when the peak will be. What we will look for first is a slowing of the rate of people testing positive and we are not seeing that yet."
Mr Hancock attended the launch of the Nightingale Hospital, which has been built at London's ExCel centre and has space for 4,000 beds, after exiting self-isolation after testing positive himself for coronavirus last week.
He also confirmed the government is currently considering a plan for how people who have had COVID-19 and then recovered can later be authorised to return to work, such as through the issuing of certificates.
"This is something I have strong personal interest in as I'm sure you can imagine," the health secretary said.
"Again, the science of not only how immune you are after having the disease - but also that you don't transmit it once you've had the disease - both of those things are things we think are probably the case."
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However, Mr Hancock admitted there was not yet a functioning antibody test to determine whether someone previously had the infection - and so are unlikely to contract it again.
"It's something that's very frustrating, I'd love one to be invented to worked effectively enough to be able to have confidence in using," he added.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously described such a test as a potential "total game changer" in the battle against coronavirus.
It would show whether an individual had antibodies for COVID-19 which, if they did, would mean they could return to work if they were not showing symptoms.