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Coronavirus: 164 people in UK test positive

Almost 50 new cases were recorded between Thursday and Friday.

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An NHS catch it, bin it, kill it sign as 164 people test positive for Covid-19 as of Friday morning (Philip Toscano/PA)

An NHS catch it, bin it, kill it sign as 164 people test positive for Covid-19 as of Friday morning (Philip Toscano/PA)

An NHS catch it, bin it, kill it sign as 164 people test positive for Covid-19 as of Friday morning (Philip Toscano/PA)

More than 160 people have now tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, in the largest day-on-day increase.

In total, 163 people had tested positive for Covid-19 as of 9am on Friday, up from 115 cases reported at the same time on Thursday.

Northern Ireland then confirmed its fourth case later on Friday, bringing the total to 164.

It comes as the PA news agency understands that samples taken from an elderly patient who died at Milton Keynes Hospital are currently being investigated for coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared to suggest the patient, reportedly an 88-year-old man, did have the illness.

He told ITV on Friday he was “sorry to hear of the news of a second death here in the UK of somebody with coronavirus”.

But NHS England said it could not confirm the patient had coronavirus and was still awaiting test results.

On Thursday evening another patient, reported to be a woman in her 70s, became the first person in the UK to die after being diagnosed with Covid-19 while at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

Last week, a British tourist who had been on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Japan, became the first UK citizen to die from the virus.

In other developments:

– Facebook closed its London office for deep cleaning after a Singapore-based employee who had visited tested positive.

– Scottish Government official Professor June Andrew said a coronavirus pandemic would be “quite useful” as it would take out hospital bed blockers, even though it was a “horrific” thing to say.

– Dr Mike Ryan, from the World Health Organisation (WHO), said it was “a false hope” that coronavirus would disappear in the summer like flu.

– A 43-year-old British businessman was confirmed with Covid-19 in Thailand, and the Vatican confirmed its first case.

– A church in Devon closed after a parishioner was diagnosed with coronavirus, while the Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna temple, near Watford, closed its doors after a member tested positive.

– Two members of British Airways staff tested positive. PA understands the staff are baggage handlers.

– Globally, the number of coronavirus cases has passed 100,000, with 3,400 deaths.

– Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited a Bedfordshire laboratory as the Government pledged an extra £46 million for research into coronavirus vaccines and rapid diagnostic tests.

– The Royal College of Emergency Medicine cancelled its spring conference on continuing professional development in Bournemouth at the end of March.

– Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said homeless people were at higher risk of coronavirus due to existing health conditions, inability to wash their hands regularly and may be unable to self-isolate if they become unwell.

HEALTH Coronavirus
Coronavirus cases in the UK. See story HEALTH Coronavirus. Infographic PA Graphics

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the Government is working with supermarkets to ensure food supplies as the number of people self-isolating is expected to rise.

He sought to reassure the public following panic-buying in some areas, with supermarkets seeing their shelves cleared of essentials such as toilet roll and paracetamol.

Speaking on BBC’s Question Time, Mr Hancock said: “The Government has supplies of the key things that are needed, and, within the food supply, we are absolutely confident that there won’t be a problem there.

“And, crucially, we are working to makes sure that if people are self-isolating, they will be able to get the food and supplies that they need.”

He said there was “absolutely no need” for individual people “to go round buying more than they need.”

Coronavirus
A coronavirus warning board at the entrance to Edinburgh Waverley train station (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Downing Street said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had regular meetings with the food industry to discuss risks to the supply chain, with a working group due to meet on Friday.

One supermarket executive told the BBC sales of basics such as pasta and tinned goods had “gone through the roof”, adding: “While I think people don’t need to panic buy and should just shop normally, I’m not sure the Government can guarantee all food supply in all instances.”

However Environment Secretary George Eustice said he has been reassured by retailers that they are taking “all the necessary steps to ensure consumers have the food and supplies they need”.

New blog posts from Public Health England (PHE) suggested people may need to get supplies for loved ones in future if social-distancing measures are brought in and more people are told to stay at home.

The posts urged people to “plan ahead”, adding: “Everyone has a part to play, and we’re asking people to think about what they do in a typical week, how they could limit contact with others if asked to, and how they could help people in their community who might need support if certain social-distancing measures were put in place.

“This might include helping older relatives and neighbours to get some food in, so that they would have supplies for a week or so if required, ensuring someone would be available to go shopping for them, or arranging for online delivery if they needed it.”

Coronavirus cases in Europe
(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, 142 people from the UK – including 121 passengers and 21 crew – are among 3,533 people on the Grand Princess cruise ship currently quarantined off the coast of California.

Princess Cruises said it was following advice from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and samples were collected on Thursday from 45 people deemed to be at risk.

It said in a statement: “Following guidelines received from the CDC, all guests have been asked to stay in their staterooms while test results are pending.

“Guests are receiving meal deliveries in their staterooms by room service, and additional television and movie options have been added to in-room programming.”

The cruise ship made a round trip from San Francisco to Mexico last month, after which a cluster of coronavirus cases were identified.

After the liner docked in San Francisco on February 21, thousands of passengers disembarked and thousands boarded. The boat then sailed to Hawaii.

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has said half of all coronavirus cases in the UK are most likely to occur in just a three-week period, with 95% of them over a nine-week period.

PA