The UK on Saturday announced 621 more deaths in the coronavirus outbreak, taking the overall cumulative toll to 28,131, just behind Europe’s worst-hit country Italy.
The government said that 182,260 people had tested positive for Covid-19, up 4,806 on Friday. But hospital admissions had fallen, it added.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday said the country had “past the peak” of the virus, as he comes under mounting pressure to ease lockdown restrictions imposed in late March.
A review is expected this Thursday and Johnson said the government would outline a plan to lift social distancing measures that would keep transmissions rates down.
“The very strong advice today is that moment has not yet come,” housing minister Robert Jenrick told a daily briefing on the government’s response to the outbreak.
In the meantime, the public should remain at home except to shop for essential groceries, medicine or to exercise, he added.
The government aims to keep transmission rates down by a wider testing regime, and also through contact tracing of people who have been in proximity with someone infected.
Just under 106,000 tests were carried on Friday, Jenrick said.
Britain was initially criticised for its light-touch approach to the growing pandemic but introduced stricter measures after scientists warned of mass casualties.
The country’s overall death toll jumped mid-week after a change in reporting, by including deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.
That saw numbers surge past Spain and France. It is now just behind Italy, which as of 1530 GMT on Saturday had 28,236 deaths, according to an AFP tally of official sources.
The United States remains the worst-affected, with 65,173 deaths.