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Coronavirus map LIVE: UK considers easing lockdown just as death toll soars above 20,000

The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed 148,377 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the UK as of 9am today, while the death toll rose by 813 to 20,319 as of 5pm April 24. The figures come after plans to ease the lockdown was emerged this morning. The arrangement could see families reunite with relatives and close friends in “clusters” for the first time in weeks.

It would give household units an opportunity to share childcare and would permit people to gather for meals and other activities at home. 

A Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: “If we can find a way to allow a bit more flexibility without risking transmission of the disease running higher then we will do it.”

On Friday Health Secretary Matt Hancock said ministers would not be prepared to ease the lockdown until they were certain a second wave of coronavirus was unlikely.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, Mr Hancock said: “I understand those voices who are saying we should move sooner but that is not something we are going to do.”

Coronvairus lockdown: Britons will be allowed to mingle with family and friends in ‘clusters’ (Image: GETTY)

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Coronavirus UK Live: The UK’s death toll has surged past 19,000 (Image: EXPRESS)

His comments come as the public have been urged to stay home ahead of the fifth weekend since the Government implemented the lockdown.

Photos this week showed crowds flocking to parks and seafronts to enjoy the high temperatures.

Forecasters have predicted warm conditions for most of the country over the weekend, prompting concerns about the “danger” that people may defy the restrictions on movement which began on March 23.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has not ruled out granting police additional powers to enforce lockdown measures.

On Saturday she is expected to condemn those ignoring the ban on travel.

SEE BELOW FOR LIVE UPDATES: 

3.40pm update: Ex BBC Radio 4 presenter Richard Sanders dies from coronavirus aged 62

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BBC Radio 4 presenter Charlotte Smith confirmed the news on the show today.

Charlotte told listeners: “We finish this morning with some sad news the former BBC Farming Today presenter Richard Sanders has died at the age of 62 after contracting COVID-19 in hospital.”

3.20pm update: UK wide death toll jumps to more than 20,000 as Department of Health’s latest figures released

The number of people who have died from coronavirus by 813 to 20,319 as of 5pm on April 24, the Department of Health and Social Care tweeted.

As of 9am today, 148,377 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

3pm update: People who have recovered from coronavirus may not be protected against getting it again

The World Health Organization warns people who have recovered from COVID-19 may not be protected against reinfection.

2.27pm update: Wales death toll jumps by 23

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Welsh health officials have said 23 further COVID-19 hospital deaths have occurred since yesterday.

These bring the total number of deaths to 774.

2.25pm update: Scotland’s death toll tops 1,231

Scottish Government reports 47 more COVID-19 hospital deaths in Scotland since yesterday.

This takes the total number of deaths in the country to 1,231.

2.22pm update: Wales coronavirus cases increase by 299

Public Health Wales said a further 299 people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 8,900.

Dr Chris Williams, from Public Health Wales, said: “Based on the new case numbers there is emerging evidence suggesting a levelling-off in the number of new cases of Covid-19 in Wales, which may be an indication of the effectiveness of lockdown measures.

“However, it is still too early to tell for sure, and it is too soon to end the current social distancing rules.

“Public Health Wales continues to fully support the extension of lockdown measures, which is essential to avoid reversing the gains we have made in slowing the spread of this virus, protecting our NHS and saving lives.”

Tata Steel is seeking a £500m bailout due to the coronavirus crisis (Image: GETTY)

2.19pm update: Hospital deaths surpass 18,000

NHS England has announced 711 new deaths of people who tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 18,084.

Of the 711 new deaths announced today: 105 occurred on April 24, 236 occurred on April 23 and 66 occurred on April 22.

1.41pm update: Poland to reopen outdoor playgrounds as it eases sports curbs

Poland plans to reopen outdoor sports areas on May 4 and will allow top league football matches to be played at the end of next month, as part of an easing of restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Poland started relaxing some of the curbs earlier in April, saying they were costly for the economy.

It has reopened forests and parks and eased rules on the number of customers in shops.

By Saturday, the European Union member state of 38 million had reported 11,067 cases and 499 deaths.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock takes part in a coronavirus clinical trial (Image: TWITTER/Matt Hancock)

1.35pm update: Wizz Air to restart some flights from UK

Low cost airline Wizz Air said it would restart some flights from London’s Luton Airport on May 1, becoming one of the first European carriers to begin to restore services which have been grounded during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wizz said in a statement on Saturday that cabin crew would wear masks and gloves throughout flights and distribute sanitising wipes to each passenger.

Its aircraft would be disinfected overnight, it added.

Flights to several destinations in Romania, plus Budapest in Hungary, Lisbon in Portugal, and Tenerife in Spain would be amongst those to restart, said Wizz.

1.07pm update: Dutch COVID-19 cases rise above 37,000, with 120 new deaths -health authorities

12.46pm update: Hancock tweet snap of himself in clinical trial

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has shared a photo of himself taking part in the clinical trial to establish if plasma from the blood of recovered coronavirus patients could help treat others fighting the illness.

Mr Hancock recovered after testing positive for Covid-19 in late March and tweeted: “This hugely important clinical trial will help our NHS treat coronavirus patients using plasma.

“If you’re asked, please take part. It’s painless.”

12.26pm update: Tata Steel seeks £500m bailout as industry grapples with coronavirus slump

The UK’s largest steel producer is seeking a massive bailout from the Government as it struggles with a slump in global orders caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Sky News reports. 

Wizz Air said some flight routes from Luton would be reinstated on May 1 (Image: GETT)

Priti Patel will today issue an urgent warning against flouting lockdown rules (Image: GETTY)

12.11pm update: Do you think the lockdown should be lifted? Vote here in the Express.co.uk poll 

11.27am update: ‘No evidence’ that recovered COVID-19 patients cannot be reinfected – WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that there was currently “no evidence” that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second coronavirus infection.

In a scientific brief, the United Nations agency warned governments against issuing “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to people who have been infected as their accuracy could not be guaranteed.

The practice could actually increase the risks of continued spread as people who have recovered may ignore advice about taking standard precautions against the virus, it said.

“Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’ that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection,” the WHO said.

“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”

10.13am update: SAGE members ‘uncomfortable’ with Cummings in meetings, says Ashworth

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has told Sky News he thinks members of SAGE felt “uncomfortable” sitting next to the Prime Minister’s chief political adviser in meetings.

He said: “We need to understand whether Mr Cummings was contributing to the debate or influencing the debate.”

He said there has been “key questions” from the medicine and scientific communities about the timing of the Government’s decisions.

He called on the Government to be “completely transparent” with the public and publish the minutes from the meetings.

Mr Ashworth said “presumably, some members of SAGE were uncomfortable” as otherwise the report about Mr Cumming’s attendance would not have been leaked.

10.18am update: No10 denies claims Cummings influenced SAGE decisions when he attended meetings

9.46am update: COVID-19 home tests for key workers gone within 15 minitues of site reopening

Home testing kits became unavailable less than 15 minutes after bookings reopened on Saturday morning.

And all slots for drive through tests in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been taken. 

The site had to close to new applicants within hours of launching on Friday, after 46,000 people tried to access it. Some 16,000 bookings were made.

Coronavirus lockdown: The UK could lift restrictions on public movement to allow for families to gather (Image: GETTY)

9.15am update: Government’s online test portal reopens

The Government’s online portal to book coronavirus tests has reopened this morning.

As well as England, there is now the option to book tests in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The tests will be released in batches throughout the day, Downing Street has said.

On Friday Transport Secretary Grant Shapps denied claims the site had crashed.

8.53am update: Germany’s cases rise by 2,055 to 152,438

Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 2,055 to 152,438, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday – a second day of deceleration after three days of acceleration in new infections.

On Friday confirmed coronavirus cases had increased by 2,337.

The reported death toll rose by 179 to 5,500, the tally showed on Saturday.

8.42am update: Reaction to Dominic Cummings attending SAGE meetings 

Labour has called for greater transparency about Sage – which is helping shape the Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak – after it emerged Boris Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings had been attending meetings.

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is a forum for “thorough scientific discussion amongst the experts”, the medical director of NHS England has said.

Professor Stephen Powis told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “My experience of Sage is that it is a forum for scientific discussion.

“It is the experts from a variety of backgrounds who discuss the evidence, they discuss the evidence base of the various topics, they come to conclusions around that evidence base. It is then, of course, the role of Sage to advise the Government.

“I have been confident that what happens at Sage is a scientific discussion involving the scientists and the experts who are members of Sage.

“Very familiar territory for me – the sort of scientific discussion I have been very, very used to in my career as a doctor and a scientist. A thorough scientific discussion amongst the experts.”

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