The UK has announced 813 more deaths from the coronavirus today, taking the UK’s total to 12,142 after three weeks of nationwide lockdown.
NHS England confirmed 744 more patients have died in its hospitals and a total of 69 fatalities were announced across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The increase from just 717 deaths recorded yesterday is small – 13 per cent – but comes at the end of a four-day bank holiday weekend, meaning deaths that happened after Wednesday last week may be underreported.
Government scientists have cautioned against pinning too much hope to the numbers of people dying because they date back up to two weeks.
A more accurate picture of the UK’s current situation will come in the numbers of newly diagnosed infections and the numbers of people being admitted to hospital, which will be released by officials later today.
Speaking in a briefing in which she became the first leader to update today’s statistics, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it would be ‘unconscionable and unacceptable’ for medical supplies to be diverted from one part of the UK to another.
The First Minister was speaking after reports some companies are prioritising supplies to NHS England and care homes south of the border.
A total of 615 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up from 575 on Monday.
Ms Sturgeon said 6,358 people have now tested positive for the virus, up by 291 from 6,067 the day before.
There are 196 people in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, a decrease of 15 on Monday, and 1,798 people are in hospital the disease.
During the briefing, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will investigate reports that ‘supplies of PPE to care homes in Scotland are being diverted to England’.
She said if care homes supplies are affected it would be ‘unacceptable’ and increase pressure on the national stockpile, which would be ‘a source of real worry’.
Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I hope nobody thinks this is in any way a point of a political nature.
‘It is a point about fairness and co-operation as all of us deal with the challenge of this virus.
‘All parts of the UK right now are facing supply challenges on PPE, indeed this is a global issue.
‘Any situation where supplies were being diverted from one part of the UK to another without consultation or any sense of co-operation would clearly be unconscionable and unacceptable.’
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said she is urgently seeking clarity around the situation and intended to speak with her UK counterpart Matt Hancock later on Tuesday – but he cancelled the phone call.
She said she has written to him to ‘remind him that he specifically does not have my agreement to the centralisation of ordering or distribution of PPE’.
Addressing the lockdown measures, The First Minister said she is exploring options to reduce restrictions gradually, such as allowing schools or some businesses to reopen.
She also announced plans to invest a further £1 million in services to support mental health, on top of a commitment of £3.3 million made in recent weeks.
Ms Sturgeon said the increase in funding will allow for the expansion of the use of distress brief interventions (DBIs), as well as pay for a Scotland-wide marketing campaign.
DBIs allow adults in emotional distress to speak to mental health workers.
Dr John Mitchell, a consultant psychiatrist and Government adviser, also spoke at the briefing and said while it is important there are actions taken on physical health during the pandemic, there should also be a focus on mental well-being.