Friday 8 May 2020 5:25 pm

UK coronavirus death toll rises by 626 to 31,241 ahead of lockdown easing

The UK government has announced that 626 more people have died from coronavirus since yesterday, taking the total death toll to 31,241.

Environment secretary George Eustice said that 4,649 more people had tested positive for Covid-19 since yesterday. That took the total to 211,364.

Read more: Exit strategy: How and when Boris Johnson will end the UK lockdown

Eustice said that 97,000 people were tested yesterday. That is short of the government’s 100,000 daily target which it has missed for the last six days.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Sunday lay out a “roadmap” of Britain’s exit from the coronavirus lockdown.

However, the government has been criticised for poor messaging over the PM’s announcement. Fears have been raised that the public will preempt the PM and surge into public areas over this bank holiday weekend.

Eustice today said: “The Prime Minister will outline any changes to the guidance on Sunday. But in the meantime, in spite of the sunny bank holiday, it is vitally important that we continue to abide by the current restrictions.”

“There isn’t going to be any dramatic overnight change,” Eustice said. He said Britain is not “out of the woods” and needs to avoid a second peak of infections that could “overwhelm our NHS”.

Britain’s death toll of 31,241 is the highest in Europe. Just under 30,000 people have died in Italy, and Spain and France have both suffered 26,000 deaths.

However, it is difficult to make useful international comparisons as countries have different sized populations and methods of recording deaths. 

The government has warned against such comparisons but has itself made them. On Wednesday, Labour leader Keir Starmer challenged the Prime Minister on the death toll, asking “how on earth” it had “come to this”.

Johnson is set to announce some easing of the coronavirus lockdown on Sunday. Many Conservative backbenchers have called on the government to “reopen” the economy so as to boost growth.

Read more: Sajid Javid: UK should run the economy ‘hot’ and support lenders

Former chancellor Sajid Javid today said lockdowns should be eased quickly and consider “running the economy quite hot”.

However, Eustice today said any changes “will be done with the utmost of caution”.