UK records 980 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals

Toll is worst suffered by any European country in one day since the epidemic began

Britain has recorded the worst death toll in hospitals from coronavirus suffered by any European country in a single day since the epidemic began, with 980 new deaths bringing the country’s total so far to 8,958.

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam told a press conference in Downing Street that hospital admissions and intensive care cases in London were falling but he stopped short of saying the worst was over.

“It’s impossible to say that we’ve peaked but I suggest to you that the curve is starting to bend and your hard work is beginning to pay off,” he said.  “We have to take the pain now to make the gain in a few weeks’ time.”

Britain's toll on Friday surpassed Spain's worst daily toll of 950 and Italy's of 919, with the United States now the only country in the world recording higher daily death tolls. France's official figures are sometimes higher but unlike most countries, they include deaths in care homes and other settings outside hospitals.


The British government has faced criticism for being slow to introduce social distancing measures and for abandoning community testing and tracing early in the epidemic. Health secretary Matt Hancock last week promised to increase the number of tests to 100,000 a day by the end of April but the current level is less than a fifth of that.

New guidelines

Mr Hancock acknowledged on Friday that some frontline health staff had experienced difficulty in getting personal protective equipment (PPE). He said logistical help from the armed forces meant that daily deliveries to hospitals would start next week and the government has issued new guidelines saying some items of the protective equipment could now be used all day rather than changed after each patient.

“There’s enough PPE to go around, but only if it’s used in line with our guidance. We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource that it is,” he said.

Boris Johnson, who left intensive care on Thursday, remains in hospital recovering from coronavirus but his condition has improved.

“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,” a Downing Street spokesman said.


Downing Street moved on Friday to reassure people that they were free to buy anything they chose from shops that are open, following reports that police were warning against non-essential purposes. The prime minister’s official spokesman said shops that were permitted to open were allowed to sell whatever they had in stock.

But with warm weather forecast for Saturday, Mr Hancock warned against any slackening in observing social distancing over Easter.

"However warm the weather, however tempting your local 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," he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times