The UK is yet to pass the peak of the Covid-19 epidemic, so the time to lift the lockdown has not yet arrived, Health Minister Matt Hancock has said. Otherwise, efforts to stop the virus thus far would have been for nothing.
“While we’ve seen a flattening of the number of cases, and thankfully a flattening of the number of deaths, that hasn’t started to come down yet,” Hancock told BBC on Thursday. “It does appear that we are starting to reach a peak, and that’s very good news. But it’s still a very high level. 761 people died yesterday.”
The minister said the British public had been remarkably understanding during this health crisis and mostly complied with the social distancing measures imposed by the government.
“I don’t want to put all that good effort to waste. If we just released all the measures now, then this virus would run rampant once again and we can’t let that happen.”
Later in the day, Hancock will communicate with his counterparts in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to discuss whether to recommend that the British government keeps the current lockdown in place or not. The cabinet will make a formal decision later on Thursday, with a three-week extension expected to come out of the meeting.
The health secretary also made the rather bleak announcement that the death toll among NHS staff working to combat the coronavirus has risen to 27. Among the deceased was pregnant nurse Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, 28, who worked at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital. She passed away on Sunday but her daughter was delivered successfully via caesarean section.
“I think these are incredibly heart-rending. The story of Mary, as you say, is a terrible one,” Hancock said.
The real death toll among NHS staff is already widely believed to be higher than 28 as the health service mortality figure in the UK does not include care home staff. In addition, official figures lag behind while confirmation is sought.
Hancock admitted that roughly 15 percent of care homes in the UK are experiencing an outbreak of coronavirus, while testing for care home staff only began this week. The UK government has only just enacted testing and, where necessary, isolation for elderly patients leaving hospital for care homes.
The UK is fast approaching 100,000 cases of coronavirus and has so far lost 12,894 lives to the pandemic.
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