THE UK coronavirus death toll has risen to 18,738 after 638 more deaths were recorded today.
It means the death rate has dropped by 14%, with 439 fewer deaths recorded between Monday and Thursday this week – compared with the same days last week.
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Between the Easter bank holiday Monday and Thursday last week, a total of 3,117 deaths were recorded in the UK.
The death rate dropped on the bank holiday Monday, but this is likely to have been caused by a backlog in records taken over the long weekend.
This week, 2,678 were logged across the same period.
Today's rise is lower than it has been for three days – compared with 763 yesterday and 828 the day before.
It is also is the lowest death rate recorded on a Thursday for three weeks.
On the same day last week, the number of UK coronavirus deaths rose by 861.
On the Thursday before that, 881 new deaths were logged.
The Department of Health confirmed 138,078 have now tested positive for the killer bug – up 4,583 from yesterday.
In England, the total number of coronavirus deaths recorded in hospitals is now 16,786 – including a healthy 37-year-old.
Today's rise in England is smaller than yesterday's which saw 665 more patients die from the killer bug.
It is the second day in a row the death rate has dropped – with 778 fatalities recorded the previous day.
On the same day last week, 740 more deaths were announced in England – 226 more than today's figure.
In Scotland, 1,120 coronavirus patients have died – a rise of 58 since yesterday.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed today that 9,409 Scots have the bug – up by 371 from the previous day.
In Wales, 15 more deaths have been recorded, bringing the total death toll there to 641.
Among the latest UK deaths was carer Garry Melia, a dad of 11 who died from the killer bug just eight weeks after his daughter was born.
He joins more than 100 frontline health workers who have died from covid-19, including orthopaedic surgeon Sadeq Elhowsh, 58, – whose coffin was clapped by hundreds of NHS workers in an emotional send off yesterday.
It comes as:
- Social distancing could last 12 months with hopes of a vaccine soon slim
- Brits could be told to stagger work times to tackle rush-hour crowds
- UK Government to urge people to wear masks in public
- Two in three Brits support new bank holiday to celebrate NHS and care staff
- Human trials of a coronavirus vaccine begin today
- Nicola Sturgeon lays out plans for Scotland to exit lockdown
As Britain's death toll rises, recent stats suggest it could in fact be 40% higher than reported.
Figures revealed this week that 13,121 coronavirus fatalities occurred in England and Wales up to April 10 – compared to the 9,288 announced at the time.
It would suggest as many as 25,000 may have already died.
The difference is down to deaths that happened outside hospital – including at care homes, hospices and private homes – as well as delays in recording fatalities.
Officials have admitted that care homes were hit with as many as 400 coronavirus deaths a day over the Easter bank holiday weekend alone.
In a bid to halt the deadly spread, the first human trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine will begin today, with side effects for participants set to include a "fever, aches and pains".
The Jenner Institute in Oxford will begin trialling the vaccine after Britain’s top doctor stressed chances of finding one in the next year were "incredibly small".
Speaking yesterday, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty also issued a bleak warning that the nation may have to live with tough social distancing measures for “the next calendar year”.
He said: “In the long run, the exit from this is going to be one of two things, ideally.
“A vaccine, and there are a variety of ways they can be deployed . . . or highly effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease even if they catch it.”
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A No10 spokesman said: “The NHS is doing a fantastic job and the nation will want to find a way to say thank you when we have defeated this virus.”
SAS hero Andy McNab added: “The award of a George Cross would show an emotional appreciation.”
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But he added: “The probability of having those any time in the next calendar year are incredibly small and I think we should be realistic about that.
“We’re going to have to rely on other social measures, which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment.
“But it’s going to take a long time.”
It is now feared that a lengthy lockdown could mean a rise in non-coronavirus patients dying.
Leading oncologist Professor Karol Sikora has claimed cutbacks to cancer treatment amid the pandemic will be a "death sentence" for many cancer patients.
It comes as Nicola Sturgeon set out her plans for Scotland's lockdown exit today.
At the same time, the UK Government is expected to urge Brits to wear masks in public in a bid to help slow the spread of the virus.
It will recommend covering the face with something as simple as a scarf when at work, in shops or on public transport.
After weeks of debate, ministers are expected to issue the masking advice as soon as the weekend.
'WE ARE AT A PEAK'
It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock told MPs yesterday that he was confident the country had reached the peak of the virus.
He stressed, however, that continued social distancing was needed to bring the new number of cases down.
Speaking during a Commons session, he said: "We have high confidence that we are at a peak in this disease, but obviously we need to see that come down. It's a question of degree."
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