LONDON: Britain's death toll in the coronavirus pandemic registered another big daily spike of 888 to hit 15,464 on Saturday.
Addressing the daily Downing Street briefing, UK Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that 460,437 tests for the deadly virus have now been carried out across the country, with 114,217 people tested positive and 17,759 in hospital, down from 18,711.
"It is correct that the hard work and forbearance of the British public is paying off. The rates of transmission are falling.
"But the number of deaths remains sobering. It reinforces the need to consider this the moment to keep going and keep following the measures," Jenrick said, as the country's overall official toll soared by 888 on Saturday to 15,464. The minister announced a 1.6-billion pound cash boost for local councils around the UK to help them cope with the COVID-19 response.
"Today we are providing 1.6bn of new funding to support councils with the pressures they face as they respond to the crisis," he said.
Jenrick said it would help adult services, children's services, the most vulnerable and waste collection services.
The minister, who also has the Local Government brief, said he is asking councils to keep parks open during the current lockdown and also reopen cemeteries and graveyards so people can "seek solace" at the graves of those they loved, or lay flowers.
Asked about the steps being taken to review the factors behind a higher proportion of ethnic minorities in the death toll, he said: "There does appear to be a disproportionate impact on BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] communities. For that reason the Chief Medical Officer is working with Public Health England to better understand issues. It's right to do thorough research.
"I'm acutely aware of the challenge and am working with different groups so that the voices of BAME communities are heard."
Earlier this week, the government had announced a review into the trend of higher BAME susceptibility to the coronavirus.
In reference to the chronic shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for National Health Service (NHS) staff, the minister said it is "extremely challenging" to source supplies but a large consignment of PPE is due to arrive in the UK on Sunday from Turkey, around 84 tonnes of PPE.
Doctors and nurses in the NHS have expressed repeated concerns over the short supply of PPE and raised safety concerns over latest government guidance to reuse certain gowns.