England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have announced a further 464 coronavirus victims in NHS hospitals.
The official death toll for the UK is now 30,540 – Britain last night became the first country in Europe to declare more than 30,000 people had died and the nation is now viewed around the world as a ‘problem child’ because of its crisis.
More fatalities that have happened outside of hospitals, including in care homes and private houses, will be announced by the Department of Health later today.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is this week expected to announce how the UK’s lockdown measures will begin to loosen from Monday, with limits on outdoor activities expected to be the first thing to relax.
NHS England today confirmed 383 more people had died in its hospitals between March 19 and May 6, aged between 28 and 100 years old.
The 28-year-old patient had no other health problems before they were diagnosed with the coronavirus, it said.
Scotland, meanwhile, announced a further 59 fatalities, and 18 more people died in Wales along with four in Northern Ireland.
Britain now has the second highest death toll in the world, after the US where 75,000 people have succumbed to the pneumonia-causing virus.
Despite the UK’s international status as a bad example – newspapers around the world are pointing the finger at Britain’s handling of the crisis as a ‘problem child’ – politicians are pressing forward with plans to start relaxing lockdown rules.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to unveil his plans for looser restrictions in an address to the nation this Sunday at 7pm, when he is expected to tell the public they will no longer face strict rules on going outdoors or travelling to the countryside.
But his opponents have poured cold water on the ambitious plans, saying it is too soon. And two thirds of the British public admit they are afraid of going too early.
The science on what the country should do about lockdown remains unclear.
A paper published today has suggested that forcing everyone to stay at home and closing all shops and businesses might have been overkill, and evidence from 30 countries across the world suggests those measures have minimal effect on the spread of the virus.
Closing schools, preventing mass gatherings and large events, and shutting gyms, pubs, clubs, cinemas and restaurants, however, definitely have worked.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia said the insight into which measures appeared most effective could help authorities plan their way out of lockdown.
One of the scientists, Dr Julii Brainard, said they found clear distinctions between which measures appeared to be most and least important.
‘We found that three of the control measures were especially effective and the other two were not,’ Dr Brainard told BBC Radio 4 this morning.
‘It pains me to say this because I have kids that I’d like to get back into education, but closing schools was the most effective single measure, followed by mass gatherings.
‘[This was] followed by what were defined… as the initial business closures. So that was the point when, in the UK for instance, they closed gyms and clubs.
‘Adding very little additional effect was the stay-at-home measure, surprisingly, and the additional business closures.’
The research chimes with an article written by World Health Organization scientist, Dr Johan Giesecke, from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet.
He maintains that total lockdowns are unnecessary because the virus is unstoppable. His home nation, Sweden, has refused to shut businesses or send people home.
Writing in an article in The Lancet, Dr Giesecke said: ‘It has become clear that a hard lockdown does not protect old and frail people living in care homes—a population the lockdown was designed to protect.
‘Neither does it decrease mortality from COVID-19, which is evident when comparing the UK’s experience with that of other European countries.’
He added: ‘COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in all countries, but we do not see it – it almost always spreads from younger people with no or weak symptoms to other people who will also have mild symptoms.
‘This is the real pandemic, but it goes on beneath the surface, and is probably at its peak now in many European countries. There is very little we can do to prevent this spread: a lockdown might delay severe cases for a while, but once restrictions are eased, cases will reappear.’
The lockdown in Britain, however, appears to have successfully protected the NHS from an overload of sick and dying patients in need of oxygen therapy.
This was the Government’s overriding mission after footage emerged from Italy of hospitals trying to treat severely ill patients in corridors.