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UK coronavirus death toll rises to 71

Second person in Scotland and one in Wales also die as NHS cancels non-urgent surgery

Jane Dalton
Tuesday 17 March 2020 17:49 GMT
Patrick Vallance says as many as 55,000 could be infected with coronavirus

A further 14 people have died in 24 hours after being diagnosed with coronavirus in England, the Department of Health has said, bringing the death toll in the UK to 71.

The new figure was announced as the NHS moved to cancel all non-emergency surgery.

A statement from NHS England said: “A further 14 people, who tested positive for the coronavirus (Covid-19) have died.

“Patients were aged between 93 and 45 years old and had underlying health conditions. Their families have been informed.”

A second person in Scotland – a patient who was elderly and had underlying health conditions – has also died, Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said.

And a second person in Wales – a 96-year-old – has died after testing positive for Covid-19, officials announced.

The updated figures came after the UK’s top scientific adviser said the virus may have infected 55,000 people in the country.

The real figure is unknown since testing was limited last week to patients already in hospital.

Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs the hope was to keep the death toll to under 20,000 as he told of the huge strain the health service will be under from Covid-19.

Boris Johnson told his cabinet the pandemic was a “war” that must be won as he set out plans for a team to tackle the outbreak and economic chaos.

The government warned UK citizens against travelling outside the country, as well as advising people not to go to public places or mix with other people.

The NHS will pay for staff to stay in hotel accommodation if they want to keep away from a family member who may be infected with the virus.

Supermarket shelves have been stripped bare as people continued to panic-buy.

Sir Patrick said the stringent measures introduced on Monday, such as telling people to avoid public places, should “have a very significant effect on the peak” and lead to a reduction in cases and deaths after two to three weeks.

Asked whether it was hoped that deaths could potentially get below 20,000, Sir Patrick said: “That is the hope that we can get it down to that. To put that into perspective, every year in seasonal flu the number of deaths is thought to be 8,000.

“If we can get numbers down to 20,000 and below, that’s a good outcome in terms of where we would hope to get to with this outbreak.”

But he refused to be drawn on suggestions that the government’s measures could have to be kept in place for 18 months to prevent the virus resurging.

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