The number of people who have died after contracting coronavirus has passed 1,000 in the biggest day-on-day rise in the number of deaths since the outbreak began.
The surge in Covid-19-related deaths in the UK from 759 to 1,019, an increase of 260, came as it was revealed another Cabinet minister has been forced to self-isolate.
More than 17,000 people have tested positive for the virus with more than 120,000 coronavirus tests having taken place, The Department of Health said.
During the Government’s daily televised press conference Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said: “Clearly there has been a big increase in deaths today.”
But he echoed the words of Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, saying: “If we can keep deaths below 20,000 we will have done very well in this epidemic.”
The latest figures come after Scottish Secretary Alister Jack revealed he had developed mild symptoms of coronavirus and was self-isolating.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is already having to lead the response to the pandemic from isolation in Downing Street after he was diagnosed with the disease.
He has been accused of failing to follow his own social distancing rules after Health Secretary Matt Hancock tested positive and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty began self-isolating with symptoms.
Speaking alongside Prof Powis, Business Secretary Alok Sharma insisted there were “no gaps in Government”, and said Mr Johnson had held a video conference call on Saturday morning and “will continue to lead right from the front on this”.
In other developments:
– The number of confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide topped 600,000
– A 14-year-old boy was charged with spitting at a 66-year-old old woman and shouting “coronavirus” in Greater Manchester
– Mr Sharma announced changes to insolvency rules to allow firms greater flexibility in the crisis.
– Mr Powis insisted getting personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare staff was an “absolute priority” with more than 170 million “high-level” masks, 40 million gloves, 25 million face masks and 30 million aprons being sent out recently
– NHS workers began being tested for coronavirus at a temporary drive-through testing station in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey.
– Photos revealed the inside of the ExCel centre in London which is being made into a temporary hospital with two wards, each for 2,000 people, to help tackle the coronavirus response.
– Police urged motorcyclists to stay out of the countryside and told them they cannot claim it is part of their permitted daily exercise under lockdown rules.
The total number of deaths is 34% higher than the equivalent figure on Friday and the largest day-on-day percentage increase since March 18, when the total rose from 71 to 104 (46%).
It took 13 days for the number of deaths in the UK to go from one to more than 100. It has taken a further 10 days for the total to go from more than 100 to more than 1,000.
Meanwhile, the number of people tested in the UK for coronavirus was 120,776 as of 9am on Saturday March 28.
Just under 50,000 tests (47,958) were carried out in the seven days to 9am on Saturday. In the previous seven days the number of tests was 35,072.
The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK now stands at 17,089, as of 9am on Saturday.
One week ago, on March 21, the total stood at 5,018.
Coronavirus tests for NHS frontline staff are being trialled this weekend to help those who are self-isolating and need to be given the all-clear from the disease to return to work.
The Government’s aim is to carry out about 800 tests at designated sites in hotspot areas such as London and then scale them up in the weeks ahead.
Retailer Boots has opened facilities at its headquarters in Nottingham and at Chessington in Surrey to support the Government’s testing bid.