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London, May 9, 2020
The United Kingdom on Friday reported 626 more deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the previous 24 hours, taking the toll so far to 31,241, the second highest in the world after the United States, which has recorded 77,180 deaths till now.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the latest number included deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals.
At the daily 10, Downing Street press conference on the pandemic, Eustice said 1,631,561 tests for coronavirus had been carried out so far in the UK, including 97,029 tests carried out on Thursday.
He said that, of them, 211,364 people have tested positive, which is an increase of 4,649 cases since Thursday. As many as 11,788 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus, down from 12,688 the previous day.
Eustice spoke about the efforts being made by the government to help the vulnerable get access to food, firstly for the so-called "shielded cohort". those who are clinically vulnerable.
"Over a million food parcels have now been delivered to these households and in addition, all those in the shielded cohort have been added to a list giving them priority access to supermarket delivery slots. So far around 400,000 people have been offered priority delivery slots by supermarkets and around 1 million orders have been placed ensuring that people can shop normally and purchase the goods that they want to buy.
"There is of course a wider vulnerable group, those who perhaps have disabilities or who are elderly and perhaps don’t have neighbours or relatives close by to help them. Or indeed those with other conditions that don’t put them in the clinically shielded group but nevertheless make them vulnerable and we have been working with local authorities, and some of the leading charities such as Age UK to put together a package of support to help these people get access to food.
"And many local authorities and charities have also been accessing the Good Samaritan app as part of the NHS responder volunteer programme and so far 79,000 shopping runs have been carried out by volunteers engaged in that programme.
"In addition we are continuing to work with supermarkets to make available additional priority slots for those in this group. But we also recognise that the economic impacts of coronavirus means that vulnerability is not about physical access to food, for some there is also financial vulnerability, so today we are announcing a new £16 million fund to support frontline food charities.
"The fund will be used by Fareshare and WRAP to continue and support and increase the food redistribution work that they already do and will significantly expand their sourcing capacity. They will be delivering food to around 5,000 frontline charities and these include refuges, homeless shelters and rehabilitation centres," he said.
As to the exit strategy of lockdown measures, the secretary told reporters that there is not going to be "dramatic overnight change" in the country's lockdown measures, downplaying speculation of a greater lifting of restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to address the nation on Sunday to announce a roadmap to ease the current lockdown measures.
"There isn't going to be any dramatic overnight change. We will be very, very cautious as we loosen the restrictions we have. As the data that we're outlining on a daily basis shows, we are not out of the woods, there are still major challenges with this virus for sometime to come," said Eustice.
"And it's therefore important to avoid that second peak that could overwhelm our NHS, that we exit and evolve these restrictions very, very carefully," he added.
Also on Friday, Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that Wales will remain in lockdown for another three weeks to avoid "a return of the virus" but restrictions will be eased slightly from Monday.
Saying that the rules in place have "helped us all to save lives" from coronavirus, Drakeford insisted that if they were to change, Wales would see hospital admissions soar.
He further unveiled three modifications. From Monday next week, people in Wales will be allowed to go outside to exercise more than once a day -- but that exercise must begin and end at home and must not include travel.
Secondly, garden centres can open as long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Thirdly, local authorities will begin planning how to safely re-open libraries and rubbish tips, he said.
Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Friday that the only change on lockdown measures she was considering in the immediate term was on the limits to outdoor exercise.
For Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland's first minister, there would only be "nuanced changes" to measures in the region.
Friday also marked the 75th anniversary of the Victory in Europe Day (VE Day). During the day, celebrations in Britain were essentially scaled down due to the coronavirus lockdown and a ban on gatherings of any kind.
In a video paying tribute to the men and women who fought during World War II, Johnson reminded the British people that the coronavirus pandemic the country currently facing "demands the same spirit of national endeavour".
"And that means we can't hold the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past," he noted.