UK reports record 381 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours
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UK reports record 381 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours

Figure more than double that of Monday, but experts say it’s due to reporting practices; scientists say it could take 6 months for return to normalcy

A pedestrian walks past signage about the coronavirus in central London on March 31, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Isabel INFANTES / AFP)
A pedestrian walks past signage about the coronavirus in central London on March 31, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Isabel INFANTES / AFP)

LONDON, United Kingdom — Britain reported a record daily coronavirus toll of 381 on Tuesday, more than double the number of nationwide deaths posted in the previous 24 hours.

But experts warned not to read too much in the figures, citing indications that stringent measures put in place last week to cut close-contact transmission of COVID-19 were working.

“As of 5 p.m. on 30 March, of those hospitalized in the UK, 1,789 have sadly died,” the health ministry said on its Twitter page — up from 1,408 on Monday.

The patients were aged between 19 and 98, and all but 28 had underlying health conditions, NHS England said in a statement.

The country’s previous highest daily toll was 260, recorded on Saturday, with the number dropping to 180 on Monday.

Some 25,150 people have now tested positive for the virus in Britain, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a daily increase of 3,009.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for England and Wales on Tuesday revealed that the true toll could be 24 percent higher.

A goat walks past a closed stored, near Trinity Square, in Llandudno, north Wales, March 31, 2020. (Pete Byrne/PA via AP)

The government figures cover those who have been taken to hospital and tested for the virus whereas the ONS data is for deaths in the community where COVID-19 is suspected.

“The rising death toll in recent days showed the vital importance of the public continuing to stick to the social distancing guidance which has been put in place by the government,” Johnson said in a video-link cabinet meeting.

“The situation is going to get worse before it gets better — but it will get better,” he added.

‘Green shoots’

The government last Monday ordered a three-week lockdown, shutting non-essential shops and services to help reduce contacts and relieve the burden on the National Health Service.

Stephen Powis, medical director for the NHS in England, said that despite the latest fatality figures, overall there are “green shoots” because the rate of infections is slowing.

But he added: “It’s really important not to read too much into this. It’s early days. We’re not out of the woods,” he told a daily briefing on the government response to the outbreak.

“And it’s really important that we keep complying with those (social distancing) instructions.”

A man wearing a face mask waits for a TfL tube train to arrive, on the platform at Finsbury Park underground station in north London on March 31, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Isabel INFANTES / AFP)

Cambridge University professor David Spiegelhalter agreed that “great caution” was needed in interpreting daily figures.

“The extreme day-to-day variation in reported COVID-19 deaths is far more than we would expect from chance variability and must be due to reporting practices,” he said.

“Some deaths occurred many days ago, and there seems to be fewer reported over the weekend.”

Scientists say the full effects of the lockdown are expected to be seen in two to three weeks, with predictions that life may not return to normal for at least six months.

Britain has braced for an expected surge in coronavirus cases, including setting up a 4,000-bed field hospital at a giant London exhibition center — one of four across the country.

But senior minister Michael Gove said there was “not a fixed date like Easter when you know that the peak will come.”

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