UK death toll could reach 1,000 a day by Easter, warns Matt Hancock

UK Wrap: Britons urged to remain at home as 684 more people die from Covid-19

Britain's health secretary has warned that the country's death toll from the coronavirus could rise to 1,000 a day by Easter, as the number of deaths continued to climb. Matt Hancock was speaking at a press briefing in Downing Street after a further 684 people died from the virus, bringing the total to 3,605.

Asked if the pandemic could peak at Easter with 1,000 deaths a day, he said it was possible and that the number could be higher.

“I defer to the scientists on the predictions. I am not going to steer you away from that. That is one perfectly possible outcome. There is uncertainty around that. We are prepared not only for that eventuality but also in case it’s worse than that,” he said.

As weather forecasts point to a warm and sunny weekend, Mr Hancock warned people against breaching the lockdown by going out to enjoy the sunshine.


“We cannot relax our discipline now. If we do, people will die,” he said. “This advice is not a request – it is an instruction. Stay at home, protect lives and then you will be doing your part.”

High temperature

Mr Hancock emerged on Thursday from seven days in self-isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus but Boris Johnson, who has also been infected with the virus, said on Friday that he was remaining in isolation because he still had a high temperature.

It is absolutely not a blanket rule that people shouldn't go to hospitals from care homes

Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth has recorded an address to the nation about coronavirus, which will be broadcast on Sunday at 8pm. It will be only the fourth such message the queen has broadcast during her 68 years on the throne. The others were during the first Gulf war in 1991, before Diana Princess of Wales's funeral in 1997, and after the queen mother's death in 2002.

Following reports that doctors were planning to refuse treatment for the virus to elderly people in care homes if they were thought unlikely to recover, Mr Hancock said there was no such policy.

‘Clinical judgment’

“It is absolutely not a blanket rule that people shouldn’t go to hospitals from care homes. Hospital is there for people when they need it, when the doctors advise that they go. It is a clinical judgment whether somebody goes to hospital,” he said.

Deputy chief medical advisor Jonathan Van Tam said experts had examined whether loss of taste and smell was an important symptom of the coronavirus and concluded that it was not. And he said Britain would not follow the lead of some countries in advising people to wear face masks in public.

“There is no evidence that general wearing of face masks by the public who are well affects the spread of the disease in our society. What matters is social distancing. In terms of the hard evidence and what the UK government recommends, we do not recommend face masks for general wearing by the public,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times