Another 626 COVID-19 patients have died in Britain, bringing the total coronavirus-related death toll in the country to 31,241, Environment Secretary George Eustice said.
The figures include deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community, Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.
Earlier in the day, the National Health Service (NHS) England said a six-week-old baby has become one of the latest to die after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
Chairing the Downing Street daily press briefing, Eustice unveiled a 16-million-pound (US $19.9 million) fund to help support charities which feed some of the country’s most vulnerable people hit by the pandemic.
“It is absolutely vital they have the resources they need and this funding will help the most vulnerable in our society get the food they need at this enormously challenging time,” he said.
The funding is part of the 750-million-pound (US $858.9 million) pot announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak for charities across Britain during the coronavirus outbreak.
As to the exit strategy of lockdown measures, the secretary told reporters that there is not going to be “dramatic overnight change” in the country’s lockdown measures, downplaying speculation of a greater lifting of restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to address the nation on Sunday to announce a roadmap to ease the current lockdown measures.
“There isn’t going to be any dramatic overnight change. We will be very, very cautious as we loosen the restrictions we have. As the data that we’re outlining on a daily basis shows, we are not out of the woods, there are still major challenges with this virus for sometime to come,” said Eustice.
“And it’s therefore important to avoid that second peak that could overwhelm our NHS, that we exit and evolve these restrictions very, very carefully,” he added.
Also on Friday, Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that Wales will remain in lockdown for another three weeks to avoid “a return of the virus” but restrictions will be eased slightly from Monday.
Saying that the rules in place have “helped us all to save lives” from coronavirus, Drakeford insisted that if they were to change, Wales would see hospital admissions soar.
He further unveiled three modifications. From Monday next week, people in Wales will be allowed to go outside to exercise more than once a day — but that exercise must begin and end at home and must not include travel.
Secondly, garden centers can open as long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Thirdly, local authorities will begin planning how to safely re-open libraries and rubbish tips, he said.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Friday that the only change on lockdown measures she was considering in the immediate term was on the limits to outdoor exercise.
For Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s first minister, there would only be “nuanced changes” to measures in the region.
Friday also marks the 75th anniversary of the Victory in Europe Day (VE Day). During the day, celebrations in Britain were essentially scaled down due to the coronavirus lockdown and a ban on gatherings of any kind.
In a video paying tribute to the men and women who fought during World War II, Johnson reminded the British people that the coronavirus pandemic the country currently facing “demands the same spirit of national endeavour”.
“And that means we can’t hold the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past,” he noted.