UK coronavirus death toll rises to 35 and cases of Covid-19 hits 1,372 as elderly face four months of self-isolation

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Shehab Khan

The UK's coronavirus death toll has risen to 35 as it was revealed the Government will ask elderly people to self-isolate for up to four months.

The Department of Health (DoH) said 14 more patients have died in England after testing positive for Covid-19.

This follows the 10 deaths announced on Saturday.

A total of 34 people have died from the virus in England, while there has been one death in Scotland.

NHS England said the patients whose deaths were announced on Sunday were aged between 59 and 94, and they had underlying health conditions.

They were being cared for at the following:

  • Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust

  • Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust

  • George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust

  • Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust

  • Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust

  • Mid Essex Hospital Service NHS Trust

  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

  • North Manchester General Hospital

  • The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust

  • Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust

  • Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust

  • University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.

The Government is likely to ramp up efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus in the next few days. Credit: PA

Meanwhile, a further 232 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK, bring the total number of cases to 1,372 as of 9am on Sunday, the DoH said.

The increase came just hours after the Government announced that people over-70 will be instructed to stay in strict isolation at home or in care homes for four months, under a "wartime-style" mobilisation effort likely to be enforced within the next 20 days.

It is part of a series of measures being prepared by the prime minister, health secretary, chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser to prevent the health service from "falling over" and to save lives as Covid-19 becomes an epidemic in the UK.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it is a "very big ask", but it is a measure which is for their own "self-protection".

Other measures already being planned include:

  • the forced requisitioning of hotels and other buildings as temporary hospitals;

  • the requisitioning of private hospitals as emergency hospitals;

  • temporary closure of pubs, bars and restaurants - some time after next weekend's ban on mass gatherings;

  • emergency manufacture by several companies of respirators that would be necessary to keep alive those who become acutely ill;

  • the closure of schools for perhaps a few weeks, but with skeleton staff kept on to provide childcare for key workers in the NHS and police.

Meanwhile a Public Health England documents seen by the Guardian newspaper suggests in a "worst case scenario" 80 per cent of the population could contract the virus.

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Shehab Khan outlines what the scale of the coronavirus crisis could look like:

On Sunday, Mr Hancock also confirmed that ministers were seeking to give police powers to arrest and forcibly quarantine people who are sick with the virus but are not self-isolating.

"We are going to take the powers to make sure that we can quarantine people if they are a risk to public health, yes, and that's important," he told the Andrew Marr Show on the BBC.

"I doubt that actually we will need to use it much, because people have been very responsible."

Matt Hancock said strict measure will need to be taken and they will 'disrupt ordinary lives'. Credit: AP

In an acknowledgement of the almost wartime measures being introduced, Mr Hancock said the steps are "very, very significant and they will disrupt the ordinary lives of almost everybody in the country".

Speaking on Sky News's Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Hancock said coronavirus is "a very significant challenge" that will "disrupt the lives of almost everybody" in the UK.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson will personally urge manufacturers to shift their production lines to build ventilators, as the NHS prepares for a significant increase in cases of Covid-19.

Mr Hancock said: "The thing the NHS needs now more than anything else is more ventilators.

"We've been buying as many as we can but we need to produce more too."

He said he could not make guarantees that everyone who requires a ventilator will get one, saying: "We don't make guarantees in healthcare."

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know:

Stockpiling has left supermarket shelves bare. Credit: PA

The Health Secretary said a Bill setting out emergency powers to deal with the outbreak will be published on Thursday, and details of what the powers will include will be shared on Tuesday.

Mr Hancock said ministers are yet to make a decision on whether to ban gatherings of over 500 people in the rest of the UK, after Scotland said it would bring in restrictions from Monday.

"We are absolutely ready to do that as necessary," he said, but he pointed towards a Cobra meeting being held on Monday when asked when the decision will be made.

The Government is in talks with private hospitals about the possibility of taking over beds, in a further sign of the pressures that will face the health service at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Hancock said: "Our generation has never been tested like this.

"Our grandparents were, during the Second World War, when our cities were bombed during the Blitz.

"Despite the pounding every night, the rationing, the loss of life, they pulled together in one gigantic national effort.

"Today our generation is facing its own test, fighting a very real and new disease."

Elderly people may have to self-isolate in a bid to stop coronavirus from spreading. Credit: PA/Center for Disease Control

Also on Sunday, the US government imposed a travel ban on the UK and Ireland in response to the coronavirus pandemic, while the Foreign Office advised Britons against "all but essential travel" to the US.

Experts on the UK's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) set out the need for extra action to slow the spread of the disease.

The panel advised that the next interventions "will need to be instituted soon".

There could also be a shift to household isolation rather than individual self-isolation.

Mr Hancock said he was "confident" shops will not run out of food but could not guarantee it, and warned the Government could take further action.

Frequent hand washing is a good way to stop coronavirus spreading. Credit: PA

Asked if food supply might be at risk, the Health Secretary told Sophy Ridge: "No, one of the things we are confident about is that the food supply will continue."

Negotiations are also taking place with private health firms about access to their hospital beds.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: "We need every part of society and every industry to ask what they can do to help the effort."

Whitehall sources have already indicated that mass gatherings could be banned from next weekend.

Other measures, including school closures, have also been considered as an option to combat the spread of the virus.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster, who has attended the Cobra meetings formulating the UK's response, suggested that schools would need to be closed for four months if that step was taken.

Symptoms of coronavirus include a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Credit: PA

Meanwhile, the UK's approach to developing "herd immunity" against Covid-19 has been called into question.

In an open letter, a group of 229 scientists from UK universities argued that "going for 'herd immunity' at this point does not seem a viable option, as this will put NHS at an even stronger level of stress, risking many more lives than necessary".

A Department of Health and Social care spokeperson said: "Herd immunity is not part of our action plan, but is a natural by-product of an epidemic.

"Our aims are to save lives, protect the most vulnerable, and relieve pressure on our NHS."

Mr Hancock was pressed on when ministers would publish their modelling so the public can assess the scale of the outbreak and scrutinise the Government's response.

"Our scientists are extremely busy and we're working incredibly hard, but we will do that in the next couple of days," he said.