UK at peak of coronavirus outbreak says Health Secretary

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The UK is "at the peak" of the Covid-19 outbreak, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Speaking at the House of Commons, he said: "I just want to thank everyone from across the country for their steadfast commitment in following the rules, including in this House.

"It is making a difference. We are at the peak. But before we relax any social distancing rules or make changes to them we have set out the five tests that have to be met."

The news comes as a further 665 people who have tested positive for coronavirus died in English hospitals.

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NHS England has announced that the total number of people who have sadly died from Covid-19 now stands at 16,272.

Earlier today, the Financial Times released new analysis of Office for National Statistics data, which predicts that the real coronavirus death total in the country could be as high as 41,000.

The FT extrapolation, based on figures from the ONS that were also published on Tuesday, includes deaths that occurred outside hospitals updated to reflect recent mortality trends.

But making a statement to the Commons, Mr Hancock added that the NHS has "for the first time" more than 3,000 spare critical care beds.

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He said: "That is more than three times more than we had at the start of this crisis."

Mr Hancock added this spare capacity was before the new Nightingale hospitals are included, telling MPs: "These incredible efforts from dedicated staff, supported by our armed forces, means that our NHS has not at any point been overwhelmed by coronavirus.

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"Some said this would be impossible.

"Today, I want to reinforce the message that non-Covid NHS services are open for patients. The NHS is there for you if you need advice and treatment."

Dominic Raab also faced questions from Sir Keir Starmer on testing and protection for NHS and care workers during Prime Minister's Questions.

The new Labour leader and Foreign Secretary Mr Raab – deputising for Boris Johnson as the Prime Minister continued his recovery from Covid-19 – faced each other in a sparsely attended Commons as the majority of MPs participated remotely.

Sir Keir questioned the Government's progress towards its target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month and claimed that opportunities to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) from British firms had been missed.

He said: "There is a pattern emerging here. We were slow into lockdown, slow on testing, slow on protective equipment and now slow to take up these offers from British firms."

Mr Raab told him the Government was guided by scientific advisers.

He said that if Sir Keir "thinks he knows better than they do, with the benefit of hindsight, then that's his decision".

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