Another 649 COVID-19 patients have died, bringing the total coronavirus-related death toll in Britain to 30,076, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick said Wednesday.
The figures include deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.
Chairing the Downing Street daily briefing, Jenrick told reporters that 69,463 tests were carried out Tuesday, with a total of 201,101 people having tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Britain.
The latest figures came one day after Britain overtook Italy as the worst-hit country in Europe by the virus.
Jenrick insisted that it is too early to make international comparisons about the death toll.
“It is difficult to make international comparisons with certainty today, there will be a time for that…That’s a hard calculation to do with accuracy today,” he said.
About the planned easing of the lockdown, Jenrick said “We want to ensure appropriate and safe social distancing, providing the public with the confidence to return to work and to return to public spaces and public transport knowing that it is always safe to do so.”
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed during the Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) — which gives MPs the chance to question the prime minister — that he will set out details of his plan to start relaxing the lockdown on Sunday.
Johnson said he “wants some lockdown easing measures to come into force from Monday” next week, while pledging to reach 200,000 lab tests a day by the end of May.
Shortly after the PMQs, a Downing Street spokesman said that Johnson’s new target applied to the testing capacity.
The prime minister said last Thursday that Britain was “past the peak” of the COVID-19 outbreak and a “comprehensive” plan will be published on “how we can continue to suppress disease” while restarting the economy.
Meanwhile, Government Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance has said many of the early COVID-19 cases imported into Britain came from European countries, rather than China.
“Early in March the UK got many, many different imports of virus from many different places, and those places were particularly from European countries with outbreaks,” Vallance told the parliament’s committee on health and social care on Tuesday.
“So we see a big influx — probably from Italy and Spain, looking at the genomics of the virus, in early March — seeded right across the country… a lot of the cases in the UK didn’t come from China and didn’t come from places you might have expected,” he said.