UK coronavirus deaths rise to 35 as elderly face four months of self-isolation

The UK’s coronavirus death toll rose to 35 as it was revealed the Government will ask elderly people to self-isolate for up to four months.

The number of positive coronavirus tests in the UK reached 1,372 on Sunday
The number of positive coronavirus tests in the UK reached 1,372 on Sunday

The Department of Health said 14 more patients have died in England after testing positive for Covid-19. This follows the 10 deaths announced on Saturday.

A total of 34 people have died from the virus in England, while there has been one death in Scotland.

So far nobody has died in the Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin or Powys areas, but patients in Wolverhampton and Dudley were among the latest confirmed deaths.

There have been a total of 1,372 positive tests for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Sunday, up from 1,140 at the same time on Saturday, the DoH said.

It is not yet known how many, if any, of the new positive tests were in the Shropshire or Telford & Wrekin Council areas.

As of the latest local figures on Friday, three people had tested positive in Shropshire and nobody had been diagnosed in Telford. Five people have tested positive in Powys.

The full number of cases is likely to be far higher as people with mild symptoms are no longer being tested.

Meanwhile a primary school in North Shropshire is closing for three days for a deep clean after a pupil there showed symptoms of coronavirus, although there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus at any Shropshire schools.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people aged over 70 will be asked in the coming weeks to self-isolate for up to four months, in order to protect them from the virus.

Asked if that time frame was in the Government’s plan, he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “That is in the action plan, yes, and we will be setting it out with more detail when it is the right time to do so, because we absolutely appreciate that it is a very big ask of the elderly and the vulnerable, and it’s for their own self-protection.”

Pressed on when the measure will be introduced, he said: “Certainly in the coming weeks, absolutely.”

Mr Hancock added: “The measures that we’re taking, the measures that we’re looking at taking, are very, very significant and they will disrupt the ordinary lives of almost everybody in the country in order to tackle this virus.”

He also confirmed that ministers were seeking to give police powers to arrest and forcibly quarantine people who are sick with the virus but are not self-isolating.

“We are going to take the powers to make sure that we can quarantine people if they are a risk to public health, yes, and that’s important,” he told The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC.

“I doubt that actually we will need to use it much, because people have been very responsible.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will personally urge manufacturers to shift their production lines to build ventilators, amid concerns that critical care facilities will come under intense pressure as the Covid-19 crisis intensifies.

Coronavirus-related deaths in the UK
(PA Graphics)

Mr Hancock said: “The thing the NHS needs now more than anything else is more ventilators. We’ve been buying as many as we can but we need to produce more too.”

He said he could not make guarantees that everyone who requires a ventilator will get one, saying: “We don’t make guarantees in healthcare.”

Engineers have already been asked to draw up plans to quickly produce more ventilators in the UK, with JCB confirming it had been approached by the Prime Minister regarding the production of such equipment.

The Health Secretary said a Bill setting out emergency powers to deal with the outbreak will be published on Thursday, and details of what the powers will include will be shared on Tuesday.

Mr Hancock said ministers are yet to make a decision on whether to ban gatherings of more than 500 people in the rest of the UK, after Scotland said it would bring in restrictions from Monday.

Coronavirus panic buying
Empty shelves in the fruit and vegetable section of an Asda store in London (Yui Mok/PA)

The Government is in talks with private hospitals about the possibility of taking over beds, in a further sign of the pressures that will face the health service at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

There could also be a shift to household isolation rather than individual self-isolation.

Experts on the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) set out the need for extra action to slow the spread of the disease, advising that the next interventions “will need to be instituted soon”.

Public Health Wales confirmed 34 new cases of Covid-19 in Wales on Sunday, bringing the total number confirmed in the country to 94.

Eleven new cases were confirmed in Northern Ireland, bringing the total number of known cases there to 45.

Meanwhile, the US government imposed a travel ban on the UK and Ireland in response to the pandemic, with restrictions effective as of 4am GMT on Tuesday.

Countries where the FCO advise against all but essential travel
(PA Graphics)

Negotiations are also taking place with private health firms about access to their hospital beds.

Other measures, including school closures, have also been considered as an option to combat the spread of the virus.

Mr Hancock was pressed on when ministers would publish their modelling so the public can assess the scale of the outbreak and scrutinise the Government’s response.

“Our scientists are extremely busy and we’re working incredibly hard, but we will do that in the next couple of days,” he said.

Elsewhere, the Society for Acute Medicine warned that one of the biggest issues facing the NHS in tackling coronavirus is staffing.

Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the society, told the PA news agency: “The biggest concern I have in terms of management of Covid-19 is staff and what happens when hospital and community workers become ill or go into isolation.

“Or when schools close and NHS staff have to look after young families.”

Sir Mark Walport, the chief executive of UK Research and Innovation and a former chief scientific adviser, told Ridge on Sky that a vaccine for the coronavirus is “up to a year” away.

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