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UK virus toll nears 10K, PM recovering

Britain’s COVID-19 death toll is nearing 10,000 while Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to make “very good progress” in his recovery from the virus.

Health officials have reported another 917 hospital deaths, bringing Britain’s toll from the coronavirus pandemic to 9875.

It is the fifth-highest national number globally, and Saturday’s increase was the second day running that the number of deaths jumped by more than 900.

Almost 80,000 people in Britain have tested positive for the virus, among them Johnson, who is in the early stages of recovery on a hospital ward after spending three nights in intensive care.

“The prime minister continues to make very good progress,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

On Friday, his office said Johnson was back on his feet while British newspapers reported he was watching films and reading letters sent to him buy his pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds, who herself has suffered COVID-19 symptoms.

Britain imposed a lockdown three weeks ago in a bid to curb the spread of the virus and ministers have been pleading with Britons to observe the ban on social gatherings over the Easter weekend.

Much of the country has been bathed in sunny spring weather.

“People have got to stay at home unless there is a very good reason not to,” health minister Matt Hancock said.

That message comes though as the government has come under increasing pressure to detail how long the strict curbs on movement would last, with the shutdown meaning many businesses are unable to operate.

Ministers have said Britain needed to pass the peak of the outbreak before changes could be made.

Hancock said although the number of hospital admissions had started to flatten out, there was not enough evidence yet to have confidence they were past the worst.

“Our judgement is we’re not there yet. We haven’t seen a flattening enough to be able to say that we’ve reached the peak,” he told BBC radio.

A decision on the lockdown will not be made until next week the government has said, and some scientists have suggested the peak might still be some time off.

Hancock said “nobody knows” when it would be.

The death rate is also expected to increase over the next few days, health officials have cautioned, but they say they are hopeful that the lockdown will mean that the overall number of deaths will be below 20,000.

Originally published as UK virus toll nears 10K, PM recovering

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