Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said that it was "now very clear in the data that we are past the peak" of the outbreak, but cautioned that “we have to get the cases lower” in order to meet the government's five tests for lifting lockdown restrictions.
The figure, which includes fatalities both inside and outside hospitals, brings the total UK death toll to 28,734, leaving the country third worst-hit by the pandemic, behind the US and Italy.
But the UK’s grim tally is closing fast on Italy, where the 174 deaths announced today represented a two-month low and brought the overall total over the course of the outbreak to 28,884.
Ministers and doctors will be encouraged by the relatively low death-toll in today’s UK figures, which cover the 24 hours to 9am on Monday and were unveiled at the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing.
They follow the 315 announced on Sunday, which was itself lower than on any day in the month of April.
However, reports of deaths have consistently been lower on the weekend throughout the outbreak, as a result of administrative delays.
Mr Hancock said that numbers can be expected to spike sharply again on Tuesday, with a clear possibility that the UK will jump into the unwanted second place in world fatality tables.
Because of delays in the registration of deaths, many are not reported on the day on which they actually take place.
Announcing the statistics at the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing, Mr Hancock said the latest figure was “lower than at any point since the end of March”.
But he added: “These reported figures tend to be lower over the weekend, so we do expect that number to rise.
“And remember, this is not just a number. It is a constant insistent reminder that we must go further and faster in our national effort in dealing with this virus.”
Van-Tam said that statistics on infections and numbers of patients in hospital showed that in almost all areas of the UK, there are “steady but absolutely consistent declines occurring”
The death total, on a seven-day average, showed “a slow but consistent decline, which is absolutely going in the right direction now”.
Prof Van-Tam daily tests for coronavirus now stand at 85,186, with a capacity for 108,000 to be conducted. In total, some 1,291,591 tests have been conducted.
The 4 May figure was 15,000 below the target of 100,000 which Mr Hancock claimed to have met on 31 April amid widespread accusations of figures being massaged to meet his self-imposed deadline.
Over the last week the number of people with Covid-19 in GB hospitals has fallen from 15,322 to 13,258, a decrease of 13%. Some 3,985 new cases were recorded on 4 May.
“This is all very encouraging,” said Prof Van-Tam. “Tests are going up, people are using testing services more and we are well within our capacity.”
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