UK coronavirus hospital death toll rises to 16,060

Daily figures come amid concerns over government’s preparations in early stages of pandemic

Michael Gove: 'The idea that the Prime Minister skipped meetings that were vital to our response to the coronavirus is grotesque'

A further 596 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK, bringing the country’s Covid-19 hospital death toll to 16,060, according to government data.

The latest figures from the Department of Health and Social Care showed 21,626 tests have been completed in the last 24 hours, of which 5,850 tests came back positive for Covid-19.

As of 9am on Sunday, 372,967 people have been tested for coronavirus in the UK, with 120,067 testing positive in total.

The daily figures came amid growing concern over reports suggesting the government failed to adequately prepare for the Covid-19 pandemic and claims that Boris Johnson, the prime minister, did not attend five emergency Cobra meetings in the build-up to the outbreak.

An investigation in The Sunday Times has quoted a Whitehall source who said the government “missed the boat on testing and PPE” (personal protective equipment) and “just watched” as the death toll mounted in China.

The report also alleged multiple opportunities were missed in January, February and March to try to lessen the impact of the crisis, which has claimed thousands of lives in the UK.

Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, claimed on Sunday that the criticism of Mr Johnson was “grotesque” but confirmed the prime minister had not attended the emergency meetings.

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said there were “serious questions” as to why the prime minister missed the meetings and suggested he had been “missing in action” during the early stages of the crisis.

“We know that serious mistakes have been made, we know that our front-line NHS staff don’t have the PPE, that they’ve been told this weekend that they won’t necessarily have the gowns which are vital to keep them safe,” Mr Ashworth said.

“We know that our testing capacity is not at the level that is needed.

“We know that the ventilators that many hospitals have received are the wrong types of ventilators and there are big questions as to whether we went into this lockdown too slowly, and now we hear the prime minister missed five meetings at the start of this outbreak.”

Meanwhile, the government is facing pressure to explain its exit strategy for the lockdown, which was extended by three weeks on Thursday.

Multiple newspapers have reported plans for a “traffic light” three-step strategy which is apparently being considered in government and would see some schools and businesses reopen in mid-May.

However, both Mr Gove and Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, have denied that a decision on schools has been made yet.

Mr Gove said ministers did not want to “take steps too early”, despite signs that the rate of Covid-19 infections appeared “to be flattening”.

Additional reporting by PA

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