Police officers stand guard in front of the closed National Gallery in London, Britain, on May 12, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
LONDON, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Another 160 COVID-19 patients have died in Britain as of Sunday afternoon, bringing the total coronavirus-related death toll in the country to 34,796, the Department of Health and Social Care said Monday.
The figure marks the lowest daily increase in COVID-19 deaths since the nationwide lockdown began on March 24. It include deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.
As of Monday morning, 246,406 people across the country have tested positive for the disease, said the department.
Earlier in the day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that everyone aged five and over in Britain with symptoms is now eligible for the coronavirus test, noting that the contact tracing is being rolled out with 21,000 contact tracers having been hired.
"Today I can confirm that we have recruited over 21,000 contact tracers in England. This includes 7,500 health care professionals who will provide our call handlers with expert clinical advice. They will help manually trace the contacts of anyone who's had a positive test and advise them on whether they need to isolate," he told lawmakers at the House of Commons (lower house of the British parliament).
Chairing Monday's Downing Street briefing, Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab told reporters that the government has adopted a balanced approach influenced by the overriding need to avoid a second peak.
He said the government is being "very mindful" of a second peak, adding that the government has been "pretty cautious" with its lockdown easing plan and "making very sure we are taking the right steps at the right moment".
Co-chairing the briefing, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said the government absolutely wants to avoid a second wave.
"But it is nevertheless proper to prepare for one. People might hope and pray this virus will go away. But we will only be out of this when a vaccine is available. So we have to learn to live with it for months or years to come," he said, admitting that people don't know much about this virus yet.
The flu virus goes away in the summer and comes back in the winter. It is not clear yet whether the same applies to the coronavirus, he added.