UK death toll passes 20,000 but Patel warns: 'We're not out of the woods'

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the UK’s coronavirus death toll passing 20,000 deaths was “deeply tragic and moving moment” at the Government's daily Covid-19 briefing.

The death toll is at least 20,319, up by 813 from 19,506 the day before.

The Home Secretary refused to elaborate on any possible easing of the UK’s lockdown, as she urged Britons to adhere to social distancing and warned that the country was “not out the woods yet”.

The grim death toll comes less than a month after senior health officials said a total below 20,000 would be a “good result”.

The official death toll in England is 18,084, in Wales it is 774 and in Scotland its 1,231. In Northern Ireland, there has been at least 294 deaths.

The UK has one of the highest coronavirus-related death tolls in the world. Credit: PA

In the past day, NHS England recorded 711 deaths, the Scottish Government said 47 people died, 23 died in Wales and 16 more deaths in Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the fact the death toll has now topped 20,000, Professor Stephen Powis said “our hearts go out” to the families of the victims.

Prof Powis and the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, had previously stated deaths of below 20,000 would be “a good outcome”.

He said: “When (we) made that comment a number of weeks ago, what we were emphasising is that this is a new virus, a global pandemic, a once-in-a-century global health crisis.

“And this was going to be a huge challenge not just for the UK, but for every country.”

However the real death toll is likely to be much higher, with official figures only taking into account coronavirus deaths which occur in hospitals.

It is estimated thousands more will have died in other settings in the community, such as in care homes.

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand on the UK's latest death figures

On March 28, the UK had the world's seventh highest coronavirus death toll with 1,019 fatalities.

On that day, the medical director of NHS England told the government's daily coronavirus press conference "if there death tolls is less than 20,000, that would be a good result, although every death is absolutely a tragedy".

At an earlier stage of the pandemic experts were more optimistic.

On March 17, Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Valance said it was the "hope" that the death toll would be kept below 20,000.

Since then the UK's death toll has surged, making it just one of a handful of countries to have passed the grim milestone of 20,000 fatalities.

Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Valance had hoped the UK could keep its death toll below 20,000. Credit: 10 Downing Street

The other countries are France, Spain, Italy and the USA, however the UK government has recently stopped comparing itself to China over concerns about accuracy.

In the country where the pandemic began, the official death toll is just 4,632.

The world's highest death toll is in America, where there have been at least 52,217 coronavirus-related deaths.

Analysts, however, have been quick to point out that comparisons between countries may not be useful at this stage due to discrepancies in the way deaths are recorded.

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