Britain’s growing coronavirus death toll today jumped to 477 after a dozen more fatalities were confirmed across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as the UK’s crisis continues to spiral.
Six more patients died overnight in Wales, while Scotland and Northern Ireland both today confirmed three more fatalities. England has yet to declare its daily figures but scores more deaths are expected to be announced.
It comes after the UK yesterday recorded 43 coronavirus deaths, including six in Scotland, five in Wales and two in Northern Ireland. The total was almost half of the 87 announced on Tuesday, Britain’s darkest day yet.
Despite the death rate falling by half, the country saw a record spike in cases yesterday with 1,452 more patients known to have caught the deadly virus – which has been spreading on British soil for a month.
Almost 10,000 Britons have now tested positive for the coronavirus, with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland confirming 320 new cases between them today.
But Government scientists have admitted there is likely to be 1,000 infected patients for every death recorded in Britain – suggesting the true toll is in the region of 480,000.
Number 10 has faced fierce criticism for its controversial policy to only test patients in hospital, meaning only a fraction of cases are being spotted and leaving the true scale of the UK’s outbreak a mystery.
The UK’s death toll jump comes as police have set up road blocks to stop cars with one force sending up a drone to chase dog walkers, ramblers and ‘lycra lout’ cyclists.
Derbyshire Police’s drone unit has taken the extraordinary step of using one its unmanned aircraft to swoop on people flouting the travel ban – while on Tyneside Northumbria Police broke up a football match because only two people can gather together for the next three weeks.
North Yorkshire Police said it will now be using unannounced checkpoints to stop vehicles and order drivers to divulge details of their journeys with Devon doing the same as the Home Office prepares to announce new sweeping powers for officers to help them break up public gatherings.
Those powers are likely to include the ‘last resort’ ability to force people to go home if they fail to listen to police direction or take notice of a £30 fine.
Police patrols have also started to stop train passengers in Swansea to make sure their travel is ‘essential’.
The use of travel checks sparked fierce criticism from civil liberties groups with police officers now seemingly being tasked with deciding how important someone’s journey is amid reports of dog walkers being told to go home after driving to a public space for exercise and of builders being stopped from driving to a job.
Experts have said the enforcement will divert officers from investigating some crimes, but forces including the Met insist it can form part of their usual patrol duties.
Nicola Sturgeon appeared to pre-empt the Home Office’s official announcement as she set out her plans for police in Scotland at lunchtime which will see people who refuse to adhere to the ban on groups ‘made to return home’.
It is not the first time the Scottish First Minister has acted before the UK government on a coronavirus issue after she did the same on banning large gatherings to ease pressure on emergency services and on school closures.
Members of the public have been urged by Andy Cooke, the chief constable of Merseyside Police, to report large gatherings as the authorities move to enforce the Prime Ministers ‘stay at home’ message.
Mr Cooke said he would ‘expect’ people to report large groups but not to bother officers if it is ‘two or three people stood at the end of the road’.
The apparent need for the new police powers to break up gatherings has been illustrated by reports of officers being called to friends having barbecues, house parties and games of football.
It came as a new poll conducted for ITV’s Peston programme suggested almost six million people across the UK are continuing to go about their daily lives as normal amid fears spring sunshine could tempt even more to flout the rules.