LONDON: Britain's death toll from the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday rose to 12,892, according to Johns Hopkins University tracker, as the government announced new plans to modify its guidance to allow close relatives to say goodbye to their sick relatives in care homes across the country.
The latest official figures also reveal that 99,455 people have tested positive for the virus, of 313,769 who have been tested across the country.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government will introduce new procedures to "limit the risk of infection" and allow people to say goodbye to loved ones "wherever possible" during the daily Downing Street briefing.
However, he stressed that the wider social distancing measures in place to curtail the spread of the deadly virus will remain in place for some time to come.
"This shared sacrifice is starting to work. But we will not lift these measures until it is safe to do so," said Hancock.
"It is too early to make changes and the message to the public watching is they can play their part by staying at home, which protects the NHS [National Health Service] and saves lives," he said.
Under a four-point plan unveiled by the minister, besides provisions for family members to say goodbye, all care home residents who are discharged from hospitals will be tested before being admitted to a care home, and all symptomatic residents of care homes will be tested.
A new online delivery system for personal protective equipment (PPE) in social care settings is being launched as well as a new social care brand to symbolise the social care profession, reflected in a new green and white badge for care workers.
"This badge will be a badge of honour in a very real sense, allowing social care staff proudly and publicly to identify themselves, just like NHS staff do with that famous blue and white logo," Hancock said.
The move comes as the UK government had come under pressure for not taking the deaths in care homes, for the elderly and vulnerable, fully into account in the mounting COVID-19 death toll.