Coronavirus: another 708 people die in UK of Covid-19

A leading scientist said he expects deaths to plateau in the country within 10 days

A UK government public health campaign message is displayed on a billboard in West London, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, April 1, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville
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The British government on Saturday announced that 708 more people died in the country after testing positive for coronavirus, taking the UK's total death toll to 4,313.

Among the patients who died was a 5-year-old, becoming the country's youngest coronavirus victim.

On its Twitter account, the Department for Health and Social Care said 10,984 tests were carried out in England on Friday and that testing capacity for inpatient care in the country stood at 12,799 tests per day.

The department said a total of 183,190 people in the UK had been tested for the coronavirus as of 9am on April 4, of whom 41,903 tested positive.

Earlier, a leading British scientist and government adviser said that social distancing measures in the UK could be relaxed within weeks if there are signs that the coronavirus spread was slowing.

Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, whose team is advising the government on its response to the crisis, said Britain’s outbreak would probably plateau in the next week to 10 days, but said people’s behaviour was critical in determining what would happen next.

"The critical thing first is to get case numbers down, and then I'm hopeful ... in a few weeks' time we will be able to move to a regime which will not be normal life, let me emphasise that, but will be somewhat more relaxed in terms of social distancing and the economy, but relying more on testing,” he told BBC Radio 4.

The UK has spent two weeks in lockdown, but its social distancing rules have been less strict than some other European countries where people are not able to go out to exercise and can only leave their homes to buy essential items.

Mr Ferguson said if people flouted the social distancing rules, it would lead to “a more pessimistic scenario”.

"We still think things will plateau but we'll be at quite high levels of infection for weeks and weeks rather than seeing quite a rapid decline as the type seen in China,” he said.

NHS Providers, the main organisation representing hospitals in England, has called for people to stay at home this weekend, despite the warm and sunny weather across the country.

Chief executive Chris Hopson said: “We’ve been struck by how many times trust leaders have told us over the last 24 hours that they and frontline NHS staff are getting increasingly angry with the ‘selfish’ people who are not obeying the rules about staying at home.

"They can’t see why any member of the public would want to make the job of frontline staff more difficult and risk other people’s lives," he added.

“NHS staff are absolutely bowled over by the huge amount of public appreciation and affection they are receiving, but their number one message to every single member of the public is to stay at home.

“The more people stick to the clear rules, the fewer infections, the fewer deaths, the easier their job,” he added.

Other countries in Europe have seen a plateau in the number of fatalities from Covid-19.

On Saturday, Spain recorded a second successive daily drop in coronavirus fatalities with 809 more people confirmed. A record 950 people died there on Thursday.

Europe's three worst-hit countries - Italy, Spain and France - account for more half the global death toll, which stands at more than 60,000.

The latest data from France and Italy is expected later on Saturday.