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Experts warn UK deaths will keep rising as coronavirus outbreak reaches peak

Covid-19 related deaths in the UK jumped from 759 to 1,019.

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Customers observe social distancing in a queue at a Boots store (John Walton/PA)

Customers observe social distancing in a queue at a Boots store (John Walton/PA)

Customers observe social distancing in a queue at a Boots store (John Walton/PA)

The UK’s coronavirus death toll will continue to rise as the outbreak moves towards an expected peak in two to three weeks, scientists have warned.

More than 1,000 people have died after contracting the virus, the Department of Health revealed on Saturday.

Covid-19 related deaths in the UK jumped from 759 to 1,019 – an increase of 260 and by far the biggest day-on-day rise since the outbreak began.

Brendan Wren, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the report of the further UK deaths “approximates to a person dying every five minutes in our hospitals from Covid-19”.

HEALTH Coronavirus
Coronavirus-related deaths in the UK

He added: “With the doubling rate of infection every four/five days and the epidemic expected to peak in two/three weeks it is possible that we may get to much higher levels in the coming weeks before we see if the social distancing interventions have an impact.

“Coupled with the observation that the infection can affect all walks of life even without underlying health conditions, this may be a sobering thought for any of the population flouting hygiene measures and/or social distancing.”

Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said it was “very sad” but “unsurprising” that the UK had passed the 1,000 Covid-19 related deaths milestone.

He said: “Over the coming weeks we can expect to see the UK’s toll of the disease grow substantially, with increasingly large day-on-day numbers of the deceased.

“It is widely anticipated that we will reach a peak of numbers in around a fortnight, but it should be remembered that the strategy of suppressing the peak, will cause it to broaden and we will see peak mortality level off and stay high for some time before it starts to decrease.

“It’s therefore essential that people observe social distancing rules in order to start to turn the tide on the coronavirus.”

It took 13 days for the number of deaths in the UK to go from one to just over 100. It has taken a further 10 days for the total to go from just over 100 to just over 1,000.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, appearing at the Government’s daily press briefing, said it was basing its response to the outbreak on “the best scientific advice”.

Asked about an Imperial College London study which suggested coronavirus deaths in the UK could be lower than feared, Prof Powis said expert input, including from Imperial, came through the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

He added: “The number of deaths that arise out of this epidemic in the UK, if it’s less than 20,000 as (government chief scientific adviser) Sir Patrick Vallance said, that would be a good result, although every death… is absolutely a tragedy.

“But we shouldn’t be complacent about that, although that would be a good result, it will only happen if we stop the transmission of the virus.”

PA