U.K. Reports 852 Coronavirus Deaths, Sharp Rise on Prior Day

(Bloomberg) --

A further 852 people have died in U.K. hospitals from coronavirus, a sharp increase from prior days as officials warned the country is still in a dangerous phase of the outbreak.

The increase brings the total who have died in hospitals to 17,366, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at a press conference Tuesday, as he announced new funding for efforts to find a vaccine and said a promising project at Oxford University would begin human trials this week.

“The upside of being the first country in the world to develop a successful vaccine is so huge that I’m throwing everything at it,” he said, announcing support for projects at both Oxford University and London’s Imperial College. “We are going to back them to the hilt, give them every resource they need.”

The latest figures come as data released by the Office for National Statistics show England and Wales had its deadliest week since records began in the week ending April 10. 18,516 deaths were recorded, 76% higher than the average figure for that week over the last five years. The numbers are also higher than those officially attributed to coronavirus, indicating some deaths as a result of the epidemic are going unrecorded.

Though there have been signs in recent days the spread of the virus is weakening in the U.K. and ministers have spoken of “light at the end of the tunnel,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam stressed that infections and deaths are still running at high levels.

“It isn’t clear there is an enormous downturn at this point,” he said on Tuesday. “We remain in a situation of danger that we must take very seriously indeed.”

The U.K. has been in a nationwide lockdown since March 23 and will continue to be so for at least another three weeks. Ministers are considering how the lockdown might be lifted without risking a second surge in virus cases.

“That’s a really difficult balancing act and all things will be under consideration,” Van-Tam said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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