A five-year old child is among 708 people to have died with coronavirus in the UK, as Britain’s death toll rose to 4,313, the biggest increase since the outbreak began.
The latest figures show the recorded death toll from the virus in the UK has risen by 20%, and above 4,000 for the first time.
The Department of Health said the number of coronavirus-related hospital deaths stood at 4,313 as of 5pm on Friday, up from 3,605 the day before. The oldest patient was 104. Forty of those who died had no known underlying conditions and were aged between 48 and 93.
The figures came shortly after a hospital in Hertfordshire told people not to attend its A&E department, even in an emergency.
Watford general hospital has closed its A&E to new patients and visitors “until further notice”, West Hertfordshire hospitals NHS Trust announced. People have been instructed to go to their next nearest hospital with an emergency department or to see advice via 111 in a non-urgent situation.
Though no reason has yet been provided, the hospital is known to be under significant strain from the pandemic. The Watford Observer reported that several wards were dedicated to Covid-19 patients and, as of 5pm Thursday, a confirmed 29 patients at West Herts trust hospitals had died after testing positive.
The DoH figures also showed that the number of new people tested daily in the UK has slipped back below 10,000. A total of 9,406 new people were reported as being tested in the 24 hours to 9am on 4 April.
For the previous two days, the equivalent figure was above 10,000. The total number of people in the UK tested since the outbreak began is now 183,190. The number of confirmed cases had reached 41,903 as of 9am on Saturday.
In England, 637 more patients who tested positive for Covid-19 were reported to have died on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths in hospital to 3,939. The death toll in Scotland increased by 46 to 218, while in Wales it was up by 13, to 154.
There were 212 deaths in the Midlands, more than in London, where there were 127. The north-west had 97 deaths, the north-east and Yorkshire 73, the east of England 70, the South East 41 and the South West 17.
Among the dead are five London bus workers who tested positive for Covid-19, the Unite union said.
Unite regional secretary Peter Kavanagh said: “Each of these deaths is a terrible tragedy and the thoughts of everyone at Unite goes to the families of the bus workers who have died of coronavirus. Unite will assist the families of our members in every possible way during this terrible time.”
The union said it had been working continuously with Transport for London and the operators to ensure the safety of drivers and others in the industry whom it said were performing a heroic job in getting NHS and care workers to their places of work.
Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, who has been advising the government on its strategy to cope with the pandemic warned that the infection rate would remain high for “weeks and weeks” if people flout social distancing rules this weekend.
Ferguson said earlier that while the epidemic was expected to plateau in the next week to 10 days, people’s behaviour was critical to determining what happens next.
His warning followed similar pleas by Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock for people to continue with the social distancing measures and resist the temptation to enjoy the sunshine forecast for swaths of the UK on Saturday and Sunday.
On Friday, England’s chief nursing officer, Ruth May, urged people to think of two nurses who died after contracting coronavirus. Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke died alongside two healthcare assistants, it was announced on Friday.
May, speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, said: “This weekend is going to be very warm and it will be very tempting to go out and enjoy those summer rays. But please, I ask you to remember Aimee and Areema. Please stay at home for them.”
She added: “I worry that there’s going to be more and I want to honour them today and recognise their service.”