LONDON: The UK reported its biggest single-day coronavirus toll of 563 on Wednesday, taking the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the country to 2,352.
The Department of Health said 29,474 people have tested positive for the virus, an increase of 4,324 cases since Tuesday, as the country remains under lockdown with the government's advice for the people to stay at home and observe strict social distancing when outside for exercise or purchase of essentials.
"The youngest of those who sadly died was just 13 years old.
All our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have lost their loved ones," said UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma as he led the daily Downing Street briefing on Wednesday.
"These numbers are more evidence that this virus does not discriminate, he said.
The senior Indian-origin minister also highlighted some of the measures put in place for UK businesses to cope during the crisis, including business rates relief and grants and called on banks to not "unfairly" refuse loans sought by businesses in their hour of need.
"It is crucial that when we overcome this crisis, as in time we will, that businesses are in a good position to move forward.
Times are tough and there are harder times ahead of us but I know that together we will pull through, he said.
The latest virus-positive tests mark an increase of nearly 20,000 confirmed cases in the UK in just one week.
The government has said its focus remains on ramping up testing for frontline National Health Service (NHS) staff, who are treating the rising number of patients coming through hospitals and clinics.
"Increasing our testing capacity is absolutely a government priority," said Sharma.
Downing Street spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson -- who remains in self-isolation after his COVID-19 diagnosis last week -- confirmed more than 2,000 NHS frontline staff in England have been tested for coronavirus since the outbreak began in a push to get healthy self-isolating medics back to work.
UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove had said on Tuesday that a shortage of chemicals needed for the tests meant the NHS, which employs 1.2 million in England, could not screen greater numbers of its staff for the virus.
Meanwhile, several makeshift hospitals are becoming functional across the UK as the NHS aims to boost its bed capacity to cope with the growing number of COVID-19 cases.
It follows the conversion of London's ExCel Centre into NHS Nightingale -- a 4,000-bed hospital facility.
A push for more ventilators is also in place as a new set of manufacturers plan to deliver the first batch by early next week.
"We are doing everything we can to support our NHS staff fighting this battle on the frontline, and it's crucial we get even more ventilators there as soon as possible," said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
"We have seen a fantastic response from businesses to our call for a national effort -- and I'm delighted these companies accepted the challenge to save lives across the country," he said.
The government said it has provided a number of letters of intent to purchase potentially thousands more ventilators with companies who have credible designs, subject to them passing the regulator and strict safety tests.