Professor Stephen Powis, the clinical director of NHS England, said there were signs that the rate of infection across the UK was plateauing, adding that the next few weeks “will be critical” in determining the course of the epidemic.
But young people were reminded not to be complacent after the virus claimed the life of a 19-year-old with no underlying health conditions, and King’s College Hospital Trust in London said a 13 year-old boy who tested positive for the illness also died, making him the youngest victim in the UK. He was named as Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab from Brixton, south London.
An 18-year-old with coronavirus was reported to have died last week, but their cause of death is believed to have been another health issue.Across the UK, 381 people have died in the past 24 hours, including 13 in Scotland, seven in Wales, and six in Northern Ireland.
The jump is by far the biggest day-on-day rise in the number of deaths since the outbreak began.
A total of 1,789 patients have now died overall in UK hospitals as of 5pm on Monday, the Department of Health said, up by 381 from 1,408 the day before.
Around a third of those hospitalised due to Covid-19 are in London, the latest figures have confirmed.
The number of hospital admissions and deaths will continue to rise, Prof Powis added, as the impact of lockdown measures begins to be felt.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries said the deaths of young people underlined the need for everyone to follow social distancing rules.
“I’m sure that has come as a huge shock to their families,” she said.
“Although what we know about this disease is that, in general, younger people are not having significant severe illness, it is the case, very sadly ... that young people can still be affected.”
She said that younger people “tend not to think of death” and so it is “quite easy perhaps to not think of yourself as part of the risk, or part of the affected group”.
“They are really sad reminders that it doesn’t matter what age you are, you should be staying at home and observing all the social distancing measures we have highlighted.”
‘It’s early days’
Prof Powis struck a note of optimism at the daily Downing Street press conference, saying the public were responding to social distancing guidelines and pointing to evidence of a collapse in public transport and car use.
“We have had a rise in the number of new UK cases, but recently there is a little bit of plateau,” he said. “It’s really important not to read too much into this.
“It’s early days, we’re not out of the woods, we’re very much in the woods. The number of infections is not rising as rapidly as it once was.
“So green shoots, but only green shoots and we must not be complacent and we must not take our foot off the pedal.”Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the sharp rise in UK deaths from coronavirus was “deeply shocking” but he could not say exactly when the peak of the epidemic would come.
“There’s not a fixed date like Easter when you know that the peak will come, it depends on the actions of all of us,” he told reporters.
“We can delay that peak, we can flatten the curve through our own particular actions.”
He said despite signs that interventions were working, “now is absolutely not the time for people to imagine there can be any relaxation or slackening” of lockdown measures.
It came as other figures revealed that the true death toll is higher than hospital statistics suggest.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for England and Wales shows there were 24 per cent more deaths relating to Covid-19 up to and including 20 March, compared to hospital-only data for the same period.
The ONS looked at all deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned as a factor, including hospital deaths and those in the community and care homes. Meanwhile, a host of former ministers and senior MPs have backed a campaign to provide the families of NHS front line “heroes” with compensation if they die in the fight against Covid-19.
A senior collection of cross-party backbenchers – including ex-police minister Mike Penning, former health minister Dan Poulter and Sir Charles Walker, joint vice-chair of the influential Conservative Party 1922 Committee – have added their names to a call for Boris Johnson to offer financial support to loved ones of NHS workers in the event of their death.
Ear, nose and throat consultant Amged El-Hawrani, aged 55, became the first doctor to be recognised by the NHS as having died after contracting coronavirus from his patients at Leicester Royal Infirmary on Saturday.
The Royal College of Physicians has confirmed that about one in four NHS doctors are off work sick or in isolation while the Health Care Supply Association has warned of “serious supply issues” in personal protective equipment in hospitals.
In their letter to the Prime Minister, co-ordinated by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, 50 MPs have united in calling for an armed-forces style compensation package for NHS workers who lose their lives.
They wrote: “Those on the front line of this battle against coronavirus are heroes.
“However, the risks to themselves and their families that they are taking on a daily basis are not recognised as much as they should be. We are writing to you to call on the UK Government to create a coronavirus compensation scheme for those who, are bravely putting themselves in harm’s way.”
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