The UK’s coronavirus death toll has increased by 128 – the lowest rise on a Saturday during the lockdown.
Britain’s total – the third highest in the world behind only the US and Brazil – now stands at 42,589 in all settings, including care homes.
It is the lowest rise on a Saturday since 56 deaths were announced on March 21, three days before the UK went into lockdown.
Northern Ireland’s health trust labs reported no new confirmed cases of coronavirus for the first time since lockdown.
The four UK nations confirmed 75 new hospital deaths. Like the overall figure, it was the lowest rise on a Saturday since the lockdown began in late March.
England reported 71 new deaths, Scotland had two, Wales recorded one and Northern Ireland had one as the country’s hospital total climbed to 32,785.
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On recent Saturdays, the daily hospital death increases were 80 on June 13, 92 on June 6, 183 on May 30, 180 on May 23 and 244 on May 16.
The highest increase on a Saturday was 917 on April 11 when the UK was in the deadliest days of its outbreak.
Saturday’s figures were announced after Chancellor Rishi Sunak dropped a major hint that England’s two-metre social distancing rule will be relaxed soon.
The Chancellor said the Prime Minister’s review “will make an enormous difference” to businesses.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said 42,589 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Friday, up by 128 from 42,461 the day before.
The Government figures do not include all deaths involving Covid-19 across the UK, which is thought to have passed 53,000.
The DHSC also said in the 24-hour period up to 9am on Saturday, 230,550 tests were carried out or dispatched, with 1,295 positive results.
Overall, a total of 7,714,201 tests have been carried out and 303,110 cases have been confirmed positive.
The figure for the number of people tested has been “temporarily paused to ensure consistent reporting” across all methods of testing.
NHS England announced 71 hospital deaths, taking its total to 28,292.
England’s latest victims were aged between 41 and 95 years old. One patient, aged 68, had no known underlying health conditions.
The South West was the only region to report no deaths in the latest figures.
The number of deaths by region were as follows:
– Midlands: 21
– North West: 16
– East: 10
– South East: 10
– North East and Yorkshire: 8
– London: 6
– South West: 0
Scotland’s death toll increased by two to 2,472.
Northern Ireland reported one death, bringing its count to 545, and Wales also reported one death and an overall toll of 1,476.
Boris Johnson is expected to make an announcement next week on pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels – with their reopening in England an ambition from July 4 to start reviving the economy.
He is under pressure from leaders of the hospitality sector and his own MPs to lessen the two-metre rule, which aims to slow the spread of Covid-19 but places major constraints on businesses.
The result of the PM’s review is expected this week but the Chancellor strongly signalled it will allow the Government to ease the measure in England.
“The outcome of that review will be announced this week.
“Obviously that’s something that will make an enormous difference I think to many businesses who are keen to see a change,” he told reporters during a visit to shops in North Yorkshire.
“Obviously we need to go through that review but I’m very understanding of the calls for action on that, particularly for our hospitality industry, for our pubs, for our restaurants, (they) are keen to see if there’s some change that can be made there.”
With the coronavirus alert level having been reduced from four to three on Friday, plans to allow the hospitality sector to reopen were beginning to emerge.
Guidance drawn up by the sector and ministers is understood to encourage pub goers to order drinks using phone apps instead of going to the bar, while current legislation was said to include the powers for patrols.
The UK Hospitality trade body said draft guidance allowed a “degree of flexibility” over menus being discarded after every use and for cutlery only to be brought out with food.
Chief executive Kate Nicholls told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the idea was for individual businesses to draw up their own plans to keep their team and guests safe.
“As the guidelines cover from a burger van in a park right the way through to the Fat Duck in Bray you need to have something that takes account of everything in between rather than a one-size-fits-all,” she added.
It was stressed that decisions on further easing were yet to be made, but the PM has said the lowering of the alert level from four to three allows ministers to “start making some progress” on social-distancing measures.
And he promised new guidance for the hospitality sector and businesses “very shortly”.
One expert informing the Government’s response to the pandemic as part of the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) said he had revised his opposition to reducing the two-metre rule now transmission is low.
The University of Liverpool’s Professor Calum Semple told Today: “I’m still saying two metres is safer than one but in my opinion it is now a reasonable political decision to relax these rules.”
He said he could “envisage going down to one metre with various caveats and other precautions” in order to reopen society.
The downgrading of the alert level by the UK’s chief medical officers, including Professor Chris Whitty, means transmission of coronavirus is no longer considered to be “high or rising exponentially”.
Localised outbreaks of Covid-19 are still “likely” to occur, the advisers warned, and the virus remains in general circulation.
The move was welcomed by Portugal’s ambassador to London who said the nation would like to form a so-called air bridge with the UK to give an exemption to quarantine measures to make foreign holidays possible.
Manuel Lobo Antunes told Today: “We think that the situation is under control and we would be happy to receive, as before, as many British as possible.”
Air brides with a number of countries, including Portugal, France, Greece and Spain, could be introduced as early as July 4.
In other developments:
– Protesters at an anti-racism rally have clashed in Glasgow after police advised them to stay away due to the coronavirus lockdown.
– Coronavirus cases in the UK are falling between 2% and 4% a day, new government figures say. However they may be creeping up in London.
– Sewage systems are set to be used to spot early signs of coronavirus as part of a new pilot project in the UK.
– New analysis has revealed that the UK’s daily Covid-19 death toll topped 1,000 for 22 days in a row at the pandemic’s height in April.
– Four back-to-back Premier League matches were scheduled to take place in empty stadiums on the first Saturday since play resumed.
On Friday, Mr Johnson told the public to “watch this space” when asked whether the distance restriction could be reduced to help schools in England return in autumn.
Government scientific advisers have said they would be comfortable with a reduced distance if risk-mitigating measures were taken, such as people sitting side by side and wearing face coverings.
The PM also said it is his intention that children of all ages in England should be able to return to school on a five-days-a-week basis in September.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson suggested that primary school class sizes of 15, known as “bubbles”, could be expanded back to their normal size to allow more children back in the classroom.
In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford was planning to end its five-mile restriction on travel next month and allow holidaymakers to return a week later.
And in Northern Ireland, most pupils are set for a return to education in the autumn after ministers agreed to cut the social distancing measure to one metre.