UK coronavirus deaths top 1,000 as country steps up testing
LONDON (Reuters) – Medical workers in England on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic started to be tested on Saturday as the number of COVID-19 deaths in Britain topped 1,000 after a record 260 people died in the previous 24 hours. Government figures showed 1,019 people had died as of 1700 GMT on Friday, while the number of confirmed cases stood at 17,089 on Saturday morning, up 17.5% on a day earlier. Britain is bracing for the epidemic to peak in the coming weeks, and is building field hospitals in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff to bolster the response from its state-run National Health Service (NHS). The government, which had been criticised by some doctors and nurses for not providing them with enough protective gear and testing kits, announced on Friday it was introducing a much bigger testing regime, with checks for health workers in England. Frontline medical staff in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are already being tested. The country is largely on lockdown, with Britons urged to stay home. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and health minister Matt Hancock are among those who have tested positive. The minister for Scotland, Alister Jack, said on Saturday he had developed a mild temperature and a cough in the past 24 hours and was now working from home in isolation. He has not been tested for coronavirus. He spoke in the House of Commons on Wednesday, immediately before Johnson appeared at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session, during which Jack was seated on the government bench behind Johnson. Efforts were under way to keep building up the NHS’s capacity to cope with the epidemic. A drive-through coronavirus testing facility for health workers has begun operating at a popular resort near London. The Chessington World of Adventures theme park, which usually hosts families seeking a fun day out, has turned one of its car parks into a testing unit for NHS staff, a spokeswoman said on Saturday.