England, Scotland and Wales have declared 434 more deaths caused by the coronavirus today, taking the UK’s total to 5,368.
England accounted for 403 of the fatalities while Scotland and Wales independently declared 31 more deaths in the past 24 hours.
The statistics are a ray of hope as the daily death count has fallen for the second day in a row and was today the lowest it has been since March 31, when it was 381.
Today’s number is a 30 per cent drop from the 621 fatalities recorded yesterday, and a 39 per cent fall from Saturday, which was the worst day so far with 708.
However, numbers recorded on Sundays and published on Mondays have, since the outbreak in the UK began, been routinely followed by an upward surge on Tuesday.
The Department of Health’s all-UK roundup is expected to be published this afternoon.
Scotland was the first to declare new cases today, with 255 new positive tests and just four new deaths, taking its totals to 222 and 3,961.
Wales declared a further 302 cases and 27 more deaths, meaning it has now had 3,499 positive tests and 193 people have died.
NHS England revealed 403 more deaths have been recorded in its hospitals, among people aged between 35 and 106. All but 15 of them had other health problems.
The majority of the deaths happened in London again, with a total of 129, followed by 75 in the Midlands, 67 in the North East and Yorkshire, 44 in the East of England, 43 in the North West, 27 in the South West and 18 in the South East.
Today’s statistics may be a ray of hope after last week saw incessant daily rises in the number of people dying from the coronavirus. Experts, however, have said they expect the peak to come this weekend
UK WILL WAIT ‘AT LEAST A MONTH’ FOR ANTIBODY TESTS
Britain’s hopes of going back to normal today suffered another blow after a top scientist checking coronavirus antibody tests for the Government said none of the ones he’s seen so far are any good.
Professor Sir John Bell, from Oxford University, said the testing kits he has examined so far ‘have not performed well’ and ‘none of them would meet the criteria for a good test’.
Dashing hopes of lockdown ending any time soon, Sir John said it would take ‘at least a month’ before antibody tests, which tell whether someone has already recovered from COVID-19, would be available for the public.
Professor Sir John Bell, from the University of Oxford, said officials are struggling to find a good quality antibody test
He said: ‘We see many false negatives… and we also see false positives. This is not a good result or test suppliers or for us.’
A Public Health England director has also said that the agency has not yet seen a test good enough to be used by the public. Professor John Newton said they are not proven accurate enough on people who had only had mild illnesses.
The tests are considered to be crucial to ending Britain’s nationwide lockdown because they will give authorities a clear picture of how many people have caught the virus already and shaken it off.
Public Health England has refused to reveal what the Government considers an acceptable level of accuracy.
The US last week launched its first antibody test after a firm in North Carolina got approval from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). It is claimed to be 93.8 per cent accurate.
In a blog post published on the University of Oxford’s website yesterday, Sir John, a royally-appointed medicine professor at the university, said the UK was not the only country struggling to find reliable tests.
He wrote: ‘The Spanish apparently returned test kits that were not working, and the Germans who are developing their own sensitive kits believe they are three months away from getting these available and validated.’
Explaining the difficulties, he added: ‘To validate these tests you need a gold standard test so you know the correct answer and you need [blood] from patients who have recovered from the virus infection they had approximately 28 days before.
‘You also need blood from people who donated before the epidemic so you know whether you falsely see positive tests when there is no Covid-19 in the sample.
‘For example, there are a number of other coronaviruses circulating that might stimulate antibodies that cross react to Covid-19 proteins.’
Today’s statistics come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in hospital after being admitted in central London last night because he has had a fever for so long.
The PM’s spokesman said he is still ‘under observation’ and refused to say whether he has been diagnosed with pneumonia.
But he insisted Mr Johnson is in ‘good spirits’ and still in contact with aides.
The 55-year-old was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital, which is near Downing Street, last night after doctors raised alarm that his temperature still not subsided 10 days after his positive test.
There are warnings from ministers that he has ‘risked his health’ by keeping up a frantic work rate, while one senior Tory said he must learn he is ‘not indispensable’ and has to rest.
One MP suggested that he was too keen to emulate his hero, Winston Churchill by defying illness.
No 10 has insisted it was not an emergency admission and the premier remains in control of the government’s response, despite staying in hospital with no clear time-frame for being discharged.
However, his effective deputy Dominic Raab chaired the daily coronavirus crisis committee meeting this morning, and full Cabinet tomorrow has been postponed.
Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘Last night, on the advice of my doctor, I went into hospital for some routine tests as I’m still experiencing coronavirus symptoms.
‘I’m in good spirits and keeping in touch with my team, as we work together to fight this virus and keep everyone safe.
‘I’d like to say thank you to all the brilliant NHS staff taking care of me and others in this difficult time. You are the best of Britain.
‘Stay safe everyone, and please remember to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.’
Experts say there is a risk of pneumonia when a temperature lasts more than a week. There have been claims Mr Johnson has been coughing heavily during conference calls.
The PM’s spokesman declined to say whether he had pneumonia, although they dismissed claims emanating from Russia that he is on a ventilator as ‘disinformation’.
Asked if symptoms are ‘mild’ – the word previously used to describe them – the spokesman instead said they were ‘persistent’ and included a ‘a temperature and a cough’.
‘The Prime Minister was admitted to hospital for tests last night, his symptoms have remained persistent,’ the spokesman said.
‘He had a comfortable night in St Thomas’s Hospital in London and is in good spirits. He remains in hospital under observation.’
It emerged at the weekend that Mr Johnson’s pregnant partner Carrie Symonds has also been suffering coronavirus, although she is now ‘on the mend’.
The government’s chief medical adviser Chris Whitty has also recovered in a glimmer of good news.
Hopes are rising across Europe now that governments’ drastic lockdown measures are working.
Italy yesterday recorded its lowest one-day death toll in two weeks – since March 20 – with 525 fatalities announced.
Spain today revealed its fewest deaths in a day since March 24 (637) and Germany announced its lowest number in a week (92).
The tumbling figures – if they carry on – show that strict government policies telling people to remain at home unless necessary are stopping the virus from spreading.
Spain today announced its lowest daily coronavirus death toll since March 24 (637)
While Germany today announced just 92 fatalities – the fewest victims in a week
Italy yesterday recorded its lowest daily coronavirus death toll (525) since March 20