Britain on Friday recorded its highest daily death toll from the coronavirus, marking the country’s darkest day since the beginning of the pandemic.
The UK recorded 980 deaths overnight due to the virus, bringing its toll to 8,958 people.
“Behind each one is a name, a loss and a family that will never be the same again,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the British government’s daily Covid-19 press conference.
He urged the public to stay at home over the four-day Easter break, despite sunny and warm weather throughout most of the UK. Officials fear that many people may flout the social distancing rules this weekend after being in lockdown since March 23.
“However warm the weather, however tempting your beach or park, we need everyone to stay at home because in hospitals across the country, NHS staff are battling day and night to keep desperately sick people breathing. And they need you to stay at home,” Mr Hancock said.
"The front door is better than any face mask," he added.
Downing Street said on Friday Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s condition was improving as he is treated in hospital for Covid-19.
He was admitted to hospital at the weekend and then moved to an intensive care unit for three days until Thursday, when he was moved back to a ward.
A No10 spokesman said: “The prime minister has been able to do short walks, between periods of rest, as part of the care he is receiving to aid his recovery.
“He has spoken to his doctors and thanks the whole clinical team for the incredible care he has received.
“His thoughts are with those affected by this terrible disease.”
Mr Hancock said during briefing that in Mr Johnson’s absence, the government was functioning “very efficiently and very effectively”.
Since Mr Johnson was admitted to hospital, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been in charge of the government, holding meetings with medical experts.
“The Foreign Secretary is doing an excellent job in chairing the committee that makes these decisions in the prime minister’s absence,” Mr Hancock said.
The UK has now opened 15 drive-through testing centres for health workers.
Mr Hancock said an issue with a lack of protective equipment for NHS staff was now seeing deliveries to hospitals every 72 hours and this will change to every 24 hours next week.
At the conference, Mr Hancock was flanked by Britain’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and chief nurse officer Ruth May.
Prof Vam-Tam said that Britain is roughly in line with other countries across the world in terms of coronavirus death rate.
After analysing new infection data from the last week, Professor Van-Tam said the curve may be plateauing in the UK.
“If you look at [the number of] people diagnosed with Covid-19 who are occupying hospital beds across great Britain, there has been a slight increase. But possibly you can see that the curve is bending,” he said.
“It’s impossible to say that we have peaked. London has gone down in the last day but Yorkshire and the North East has gone up.
“However I suggest to you that the curve is beginning to bend and that your hard work is beginning to pay off,” he added.
“But this is just not over.”