Number of UK coronavirus cases soars to 273 in biggest overnight increase

The number of cases of coronavirus in the UK have soared to 273 - an increase of 64 and the biggest overnight jump yet.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that as of 9am on Sunday, 23,513 people had been tested for Covid-19 in the UK, of which 23,240 were confirmed negative and 273 positive.

Two patients who tested positive for the respiratory illness have died.

Also on Sunday, the 30 Britons and two Irish nationals who were quarantined for two weeks at Arrowe Park hospital in the Wirral after being repatriated to the UK from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan were released after being given the all-clear from infection.

Despite the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the UK, the country remains in the "contain" phase of the disease.

During this phase, officials aim to detect and isolate early cases and trace people who have been in contact with those infected in a bid to stop the illness spreading widely.

Due to the increasing number of infections, the country is likely to soon enter the next stage, "delay", where the aim is to slow the spread of the virus, reducing the impact and pushing it away from the winter season.

The Government believes that if the peak of the virus can be delayed until warmer months, it can reduce the risk of overlapping with seasonal flu and other challenges that the colder months bring.

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt looks ahead to the likely measures the Government and other officials will take in a bid to stop the spread of the illness

Supermarkets have started placing restrictions on items including pasta, anti-bacterial wipes and hand soap in a bid to prevent shoppers from stockpiling.

Commenting on reports of people panic-buying in shops, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday: "We've had no advice from the scientific advisers or medical officers that there's any need for people to buy stuff in.

"If you think you have symptoms, the best thing to do as you know is to stay at home and contact the NHS.

"We will make sure we give the NHS... the investment it needs to cope with this crisis."

Shoppers have been stockpiling toilet roll, leaving supermarket shelves bare. Credit: PA

Meanwhile in Italy, a quarter of the population has been put on lockdown in an extreme bid to contain the spread.

On Saturday, Italy saw its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the outbreak began in the north of the country on February 21.

In its daily update, Italy’s civil protection agency said the number of people with the coronavirus rose by 1,247 in 24 hours, taking the total to 5,883.

Another 36 people also died as a result of the virus, taking the total to 233.

Both Venice and Milan are part of the lockdown in northern Italy. Credit: AP

The figures come as both the Health Secretary and Chancellor vowed the Government will do all it can to mitigate the virus’ impact.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak vowed the Government will give the NHS "whatever it needs" to cope with the outbreak and said he is ready to take “targeted” measures to help businesses through an economically difficult period.

While Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out plans contained in emergency legislation to deal with the impact of the virus.

Mr Hancock outlined proposals which are expected to pass through Parliament by the end of the month which are expected to include measures to allow some court proceedings to be conducted via telephone or video, and volunteers will be given additional employment safeguards, allowing them to leave their main jobs and temporarily help health and social systems in the event of a widespread pandemic.

The chairman of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Martin Marshall, told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday that tackling coronavirus will likely lead to hospitals having to cut down on "other work".

He also said he expected retired doctors and other medical professionals to answer the Government's call to assist with the crisis.

"Most likely these doctors, because they are in the higher risk patient group, would not do face-to-face contact but there's lots of things they can do - managing 111, providing online care or telephone-based care," he said.

Dr Margaret Harris, from the World Health Organisation, speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, said supporting health workers with training and equipment should be the "number one priority".

She added: "And they need back-up, they need other people to come and do the shifts. If they're working massively, they are tremendously at risk."

She also highlighted the British Army's experience in setting up field hospitals, suggesting it should be factored in to coronavirus planning.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Government's emergency committee, Cobra, while sports governing bodies and broadcasters will attend a meeting with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to discuss how to handle the outbreak's possible impact on the sporting calendar.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will chair a meeting of the House of Commons Commission to discuss Parliament's response.

Environment Secretary George Eustice will hold further talks with retailers to discuss support for vulnerable groups who may have to self-isolate.