UK coronavirus death toll rises by 759 to over 18,000

22 April 2020, 14:52

Scientists work at the Lighthouse Laboratory in Glasgow which receives and analyses coronavirus swabs taken from NHS staff and frontline workers
Scientists work at the Lighthouse Laboratory in Glasgow which receives and analyses coronavirus swabs taken from NHS staff and frontline workers. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

A further 759 people have died in the UK from coronavirus, the latest figures show.

The Department of Health and Social Care released the latest figures in the UK's fight against the virus, saying a total of 18,100 people have died from the disease. 133,495 people have tested positive.

In a further development today, one of the scientists leading the UK's search for a vaccine, said the target was "in our sights."

Professor Robin Shattock delivered an optimistic outlook on the two UK efforts to find a vaccine.

Professor Shattock, from Imperial College's Department of Infectious Disease, said a coronavirus vaccine may be available for NHS and other front-line workers, and the most vulnerable by the winter.

"I think we are very confident that some vaccines will come through and work," he said today.

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"There are so many groups working on different approaches and the virus is not as difficult a target as some of the things we have seen before.

"The main issue is that it doesn't seem to be changing very much. So it is a target we have in our sights and it is very different from influenza, which changes every year."

In a historic 'virtual' session of PMQs, Matt Hancock said the Government will introduce contact tracing at "large scale" as a way of easing lockdown restrictions.

He told MPs, many of whom joined the Commons session remotely: "We are ramping up our testing capacity and our capacity for contact tracing in a matter of weeks."

Mr Hancock also told ill people who don’t have coronavirus to seek help immediately, saying “the NHS is there for you.”

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Health Secretary said those who are unwell must not let fear of Covid-19 stop them contacting their GP.

His comments came after research from one of the UK's leading cancer charities found 2,200 new cases of cancer could be going undetected each week.

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Mr Hancock said he could not guarantee all cancer treatment would go ahead as there are some treatments that are "clinically inadvisable" due to the risk of catching Covid-19.

He told MPs: "There is some cancer treatment that it is clinically inadvisable to undertake during an epidemic because if you take somebody's immune system down to very low levels then that puts them at significant risk.

"So I can't give the guarantee that all cancer treatment will go ahead because, even though we have capacity now in the NHS and we are confident that capacity will not be overwhelmed by the virus, the virus is still at large in the community so there are some cancer treatments that it is clinically inadvisable to undertake now, especially around immunotherapy."

Cancer Research UK found that the number of urgent referrals by GP has dropped to about 25% of usual levels.