A review of lockdown measures will take place later this week after the hospital coronavirus death toll rose above 10,000.
Ministers have said they want to be sure the UK is past the peak of the outbreak before easing the restrictions, but 10 members of the Cabinet are reportedly urging lockdown conditions to be eased amid concerns about the impact on the economy.
The Times quoted an unnamed minister as saying it was important not to do “more damage”, and measures could be eased after another three weeks.
Scientific advisers will meet on Tuesday ahead of the formal review of the strict social distancing measures on Thursday, the deadline set out in law.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who warned during his Budget last month that the UK risks falling into recession as a result of disruption caused by coronavirus, has injected £14 billion from the coronavirus emergency response fund into the NHS and local authorities.
But the Government continues to face pressure over shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS staff, as a growing number of health workers died.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers in England, which represents hospital trusts, told BBC Breakfast the supply of gowns – imported from China – was “hand-to-mouth”.
He said the NHS ordered “a whole load of stock” weeks ago, but delays have been caused by the product sometimes failing safety tests, while other batches have been mislabelled – meaning the NHS has ended up with additional masks.
He said: “If everything had been flowing exactly as had been ordered and if all of the material had properly passed its safety test, there would not be an issue.
“This is all really hand-to-mouth in terms of gown delivery, and we need to get to a more sustainable supply.”
But he added “the vast majority” of NHS preparations had gone “extremely well” and no trusts had yet run out of gowns.
And Sue Hill, a vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said she believed the death toll could reach 30,000, as she criticised the daily briefings by ministers as a “bit of a joke”.
Referring to PPE, she told the Guardian: “The thing that irritates me is cabinet ministers are standing up every day, addressing us as if we’re on a war footing and giving Churchillian quotes when they could be doing a few simple things like getting more bits of plastic and paper on to wards.”
At the weekend, the Royal College of Nurses issued new guidance that nurses who could not get adequate PPE should, as a “last resort”, refuse to work.
On Sunday the Department of Health said, as of 5pm on Saturday, a total of 10,612 patients had died in UK hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 737 from 9,875 the day before.
The latest analysis from Johns Hopkins University in the US suggested the UK’s case fatality rate – the number of deaths per 100 confirmed cases – was 12.5%, behind only Italy’s rate of 12.7%.
It is hard to find the words to express my debt to the NHS for saving my life.— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) April 12, 2020
The efforts of millions of people across this country to stay home are worth it. Together we will overcome this challenge, as we have overcome so many challenges in the past. #StayHomeSaveLives pic.twitter.com/HK7Ch8BMB5
– Boris Johnson continued his recovery from Covid-19 at Chequers in Buckinghamshire after doctors ordered the Prime Minister to rest.
– Spain, which on Sunday reported its lowest daily growth in infections for three weeks, allowed workers in some non-essential industries to return to factories and construction sites on Monday.
– Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a new NHS coronavirus app which the Government hopes will help stem the spread of the virus by helping people to self-isolate before they start showing symptoms.
– The Ministry of Defence said nearly 200 members of the armed forces are being loaned to five NHS ambulance trusts to support their work during the pandemic.
– Nearly 3,000 fire and rescue staff are in self-isolation and unable to work, according to the Fire Brigades Union.
Following his hospital release, Mr Johnson said in an emotional speech posted on social media that it “could have gone either way” for him, and thanked NHS staff for saving his life.
His pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds joined in praising the “incredible” staff who treated her husband-to-be, tweeting that she would “never, ever be able to repay” them.
Mr Johnson called the NHS “unconquerable” after seeing first-hand how it was dealing with the pandemic and heralded the “personal courage” of everyone from doctors to cooks at St Thomas'”.