Coronavirus: 674 more deaths takes UK total to 26,711

NHS workers prepare ambulances outside the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre in London as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
NHS workers prepare ambulances outside the NHS Nightingale Hospital ahead of the new figures being released. (PA)

A further 674 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK, taking the nation’s total to 26,711.

The rise comes after Wednesday’s inclusion of fatalities outside hospitals in the daily deaths report – the first time it was added – brought the UK’s total to the third highest official toll in the world.

There are now also 171,253 confirmed infections, a rise of 6,032 from the amount reported on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said at the latest press conference.

Globally, there are more than 3.2 million confirmed cases, 227,000 deaths and 982,000 recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Dr Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, said there are signs the continent was passing the peak of the virus but warned the outbreak is far from over.

He said in a virtual press briefing: “We’re now seeing evidence of a plateau or reduction in new cases.

“We must monitor this development very closely.”

He added: “COVID-19 is not going away any time soon.”

Earlier in the day, a government minister also admitted the target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day set by health secretary Matt Hancock is unlikely to be met.

Boris Johnson said 81,611 tests were carried out on Wednesday, but speaking on BBC Breakfast earlier, justice secretary Robert Buckland said: “Even if it isn’t met, we’re well on our way to ramping this up and 100,000 is an important milestone, but frankly we need more.

“Yes, 52,000 (Tuesday’s amount carried out) isn’t 100,000, I know that… but we are straining every sinew to get there.

“If he (Hancock) hadn’t set a target he would have been criticised for being unambitious.

“I think now is the time in respect of this to be bold… being brave is something we should acknowledge even if the target isn’t met today.”

But there was positive news as new national hero Captain Tom Moore raised £31m for the NHS on the same day he turned 100.

The Second World War veteran has been walking laps of his garden to raise money, and was on Thursday inundated with birthday wishes and promoted to the honorary rank of colonel.

The Bedfordshire resident, who insisted he can still be referred to as “captain”, said: “It’s hard to describe. There’s been so much kindness shown and so many people making kind remarks.

“It really is outstanding. I never, ever anticipated ever in my life anything like this. It really is amazing.

“I will say to everyone, thank you very much to everyone, wherever you are.”

Elsewhere, Hancock on Thursday welcomed the news that Oxford University and pharma giant AstraZeneca have teamed up to make and distribute the former’s potential vaccine.

He tweeted: “The Oxford vaccine is one of the most advanced in the world.

“Bringing together the best British science and the best of British business will give us the best possible shot at a vaccine.

“The science is uncertain, and no vaccine may work, but this deal gives the UK the best chance we can of a breakthrough that could defeat this awful virus.

“I’m sending best wishes for good fortune to all involved – for the sake of the nation and indeed the whole world.”

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