A serviceman works at a drive-through facility in Chessington, Britain, on April 23, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
Another 684 people who tested positive for COVID-19 have died in hospitals in Britain as of Thursday afternoon, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related deaths to 19,506, the Department of Health and Social Care said Friday.
As of Friday morning, 143,464 people have tested positive for COVID-19, marking a daily increase of 5,386, said the department.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that from Friday, "any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment on GOV.UK themselves directly. This all applies for people in essential workers' households too who need a test."
However earlier in day, within hours of launching, the online application system temporarily closed following huge demand.
Responding to the closure of the system, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told reporters during the Downing Street press briefing that the website didn't crash and the slots for Friday were just "taken up".
He said 16,000 online tests were booked and the site has been brought back up online and more tests will become available Saturday and the days after, adding that this test will only tell people if they currently have COVID-19, not if they have had it.
During the press conference, Shapps also said the government has secured a trilateral agreement with the French and Irish governments, which commits these countries to keeping freight routes open throughout the crisis, bringing in medicines and other essential goods.
He noted that ferry routes are being protected between Great Britain and Northern Ireland with funding of up to 17 million pounds (about 20.95 million U.S. dollars), adding that the government has made funding available to keep England's trams running.
Meanwhile, Shapps noted that the number of flight arrivals in Britain has dropped massively, hitting "probably only 4-5 percent of pre-outbreak levels.
At future point the government will continue to keep the advice under review to say whether airport procedures should change, Shapps said.
Countries that lockdown flights have not necessarily weathered the storm and many have seen much higher levels of coronavirus deaths, he added.