Coronavirus: UK 'clearly past the peak' as deaths rise 449 to 16,509

The UK has “clearly passed the peak” of announced hospital deaths in the first wave of coronavirus, an expert has said.

Oxford University’s professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute research centre, made his remarks as the UK’s death toll rose to 16,509 – an increase of 449.

“Although we have clearly passed the peak of the announced hospital deaths in this first wave, 449 deaths can never be thought of as any other than very sad news,” he said.

“The UK has been one of the hardest hit countries in this first wave and we still have to add in deaths from care homes and wider community. It is urgent that we learn what can be applied here so we do better.”

There are now also 124,743 cases across the country, a rise of 4,676 from yesterday’s total.

Globally, there are more than 2.4 million confirmed cases, 166,000 deaths and 635,000 recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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A NHS (National Health Service) worker or care worker is tested by a soldier for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing centre in a car park at Chessington World of Adventures, in Chessington, Greater London, Monday, April 20, 2020. The highly contagious COVID-19 coronavirus has impacted on nations around the globe, many imposing self isolation and exercising social distancing when people move from their homes. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A soldier tests for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing centre ahead of the latest announcement of the UK's coronavirus figures. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Prof Naismith added that he was worried about “a simplistic narrative regarding testing” – which has been focused on as a possible way to release the UK’s lockdown more safely.

“Testing is only one part of an identify, track, trace, test and isolate scheme,” he said.

“This scheme has been very successfully implemented in South Korea. The other components of the scheme are vital to its success.

“The scheme is complex to implement and simply wishing away this complexity and pretending that the number of tests alone is key, is undesirable.”

The government has faced criticism from groups representing hospital trusts for delays to the shipping of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said there was “relatively low confidence” that 400,000 surgical gowns from Turkey would make their way into the country on Monday. The shipment was due to arrive on Sunday.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that in the past few weeks, some boxes of PPE contained the wrong items and thousands of pieces were missing.

“So rather than being marched up to the top of the hill and being marched back down again, let’s just focus on what we know we can be certain of,” he said.

“Let’s not focus on individual consignments, let’s try and get as quickly as possible to a sustainable supply of these gowns.

“There’s no doubt that at the moment, we have now got trusts that have definitely got shortages of gowns.”

Staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as they work at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital in Liverpool, northwest England on April 18, 2020. - Britain's death toll from the coronavirus rose by 847 on Friday, health ministry figures showed, a slightly slower increase than the previous day but still among the worst rates globally. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Staff wear personal protective equipment at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital in Liverpool. (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC News: “We are very hopeful that later today that flight will take off and we will get those gowns.

“We are working very hard to resolve this, there have been challenges at the Turkish end.

“I don’t want to start making more and more promises but I understand that that flight will take off this afternoon and they will be delivered.”

The government’s furlough scheme was flooded with 2,200 applications every minute when it launched on Monday.

Screen grab of Chancellor Rishi Sunak during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).
The chancellor Rishi Sunak announcing the furlough scheme. (PA Images)

The scheme was introduced to prevent employers laying off workers as the government’s lockdown disrupted the economy.

The wage subsidy scheme could see about 8 million jobs protected, although unemployment has risen.

Anyone at risk of redundancy from the coronavirus can be paid 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, described the launch as an “important milestone”.

Separately, the government has published a 2,000-word blog post rebutting a Sunday Times article that criticised its handling of the crisis.

The government took issue with parts of the Sunday Times piece and describes some of it as “plainly untrue” and “ridiculous”.

The paper said Boris Johnson missed five Cobra meetings and outlined a culture of complacency in Downing Street during January and February.

Number 10 said it “was taking action and working to improve its preparedness from early January” and that it was normal for Cobra not to be chaired by the prime minister.

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