UK coronavirus deaths exceed 11,000, government grapples with economic toll

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LONDON (Reuters) – The death toll from COVID-19 in UK hospitals rose to 11,329 on Monday as the government – without its recovering leader Boris Johnson – was faced with questions about its management of the epidemic and its impact on the economy.

A woman wearing a face mask walks through Oxford Street as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Great Britain, April 13, 2020. REUTERS / Hannah McKay

Finance Minister Rishi Sunak told colleagues that gross domestic product could drop as much as 30% this quarter due to the closure of the coronavirus, The Times reported, and there was little hope. that the restrictions will soon be lifted.

Britain’s death toll is the fifth highest in the world, and a senior government science adviser has said the country is likely to become the most affected in Europe.

Johnson left London’s St Thomas’s Hospital on Sunday after spending a week there, including three nights in intensive care, for the disease. He said that “things could have gone both ways” for him while he was hospitalized.

The government had to defend its response to the epidemic, with complaints of insufficient testing, a lack of protective gear for doctors and questions that Johnson was too slow to impose a lockout.

Johnson is now recuperating at Checkers, his official country residence, with his pregnant fiancée Carrie Symonds. His spokesman said Monday that he met with Foreign Minister Dominic Raab over the weekend.

It was not known when Johnson would return to work.

“Any decision he makes regarding his return to government will follow the advice of his medical team,” said the spokesman.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

In a video message on Sunday, Johnson thanked the public for respecting the social distancing measures, saying that their efforts had created a “human shield” around the public health service by reducing the spread of the new coronavirus.

While there is widespread sympathy for Johnson’s illness, the optimistic tone of his message could not hide the gravity of the choices his government faces while away from his desk.

With Raab at the helm but lacking the full authority of a Prime Minister, the government faces trade-offs between the needs of health services and the economy, with national morale also at stake.

Quoting unnamed ministers, The Times reported that Sunak and others were pushing for social distancing measures to be relaxed, while others resisted because of the risk of worsening the epidemic.

Johnson’s spokesperson, when asked about the reported warning of a potential 30% collapse in GDP, said people should wait for official economic data to appear rather than speculate.

“(Sunak) has been very clear about the significant impact that the coronavirus pandemic has on the economy,” he said.

A spokesman for the Treasury declined to comment.

A government review of the current measures, which have been in place since March 23, is expected to take place on Thursday. The government should extend the restrictions.

Responding to criticism that tests for the virus have not been sufficient, Johnson’s spokesperson said that satisfactory progress was being made towards the government’s target of 100,000 daily tests by the end of the month. ‘April.

In the past four days, the number of daily tests across the country has ranged from 14,506 to 19,116, according to figures from the Ministry of Health.

SLOW DELIVERY

The Treasury said its emergency funding for public services was now £ 14 billion, up from £ 5 billion announced in Sunak’s annual budget before the foreclosure was imposed.

This includes new and previously announced funding for the National Health Service and for local authorities, which provide social care to the elderly.

Working in tandem, the Treasury and the Bank of England announced a gigantic package of measures to prevent the collapse of the economy and the labor market, but some complained that delivery was slow and uneven.

Foreign Minister Alok Sharma said 4,200 small and medium-sized enterprises had received rescue loans under the government’s coronavirus business interruption loan program.

When told in a BBC interview on Sunday that the number represented only 1.4% of the 300,000 companies that had investigated, he did not dispute these figures.

Johnson’s spokesperson said the program has been changed to make it easier and easier for companies to guarantee loans.

“We are progressing well with the latest figures showing an eightfold increase from last week,” he said.

Announced nearly three weeks ago by Sunak, the program is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses with loans of up to £ 5 million each.

Slideshow (18 Images)

Meanwhile, the semi-autonomous Scottish government’s daily briefing in Edinburgh provided a grim reminder of the human toll of the epidemic.

The Acting Chief Medical Officer of Scotland has asked the public not to delay the funeral of relatives in the hopes of organizing it once the social distancing measures have been lifted, saying it would risk crushing the morgues. and funeral homes.

Editing by Angus MacSwan and Catherine Evans

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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