UK coronavirus death toll under 20,000 would be ‘good result’, says health chief

Women are seen wearing protective face masks as they walk on Clapham High Street as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, March 28, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom will do well if it manages to keep the coronavirus death toll below 20,000, a senior health official said on Saturday after the deadliest day so far of the outbreak saw the number of fatalities rise to more than 1,000.

Stephen Powis, the medical director of National Health Service England, warned the public against complacency and said everyone had to play their part in hindering the spread of the virus.

The number of confirmed cases stood at 17,089 on Saturday morning. The death toll rose by 260 in a day to 1,019, the seventh highest toll in the world behind Italy, Spain, China, Iran, France and the United States.

When asked if Britain was on the same trajectory as Italy, where the death toll has passed 9,000, Powis said that if the public adhered to the nationwide lockdown the total toll could be kept below 20,000.

“If it is less than 20,000… that would be a good result though every death is a tragedy, but we should not be complacent about that,” he said at a news conference in Downing Street.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first leader of a major power to announce a positive test result for coronavirus on Friday. He is self-isolating in Downing Street but still leading the UK response to the crisis.

Britain is bracing for the epidemic to peak in the coming weeks, and is building field hospitals in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff to bolster its state-run National Health Service (NHS).

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