Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has urged the public to stay indoors over this Easter weekend, telling people: “Let’s not ruin it now.”
He said after almost three weeks of lockdown “we are starting to see the impact of the sacrifices we’ve all made.”
Mr Raab said it was still “too early” to lift the restrictions.
A total of 7,978 people have now died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 881 on Wednesday.
Speaking at the government’s daily briefing, Mr Raab said a decision on whether to ease the lockdown measures would not come until “the end of next week”.
But he stressed that the restrictions would have to stay in place until evidence showed the UK had moved beyond the peak of the virus.
He said: “After all the efforts everybody has made, after all the sacrifices so many people have made let’s not ruin it now.
“Let’s not undo the gains we’ve made, let’s not waste the sacrifices so many people have made.
“We mustn’t give the coronavirus a second chance to kill more people and to hurt our country.”
Mr Raab, who is deputising for the prime minister, said Boris Johnson was still in intensive care, adding that “he continues to make positive steps forward and he’s in good spirits.”
He said he had not spoken to Mr Johnson since he was admitted to St Thomas’ hospital on Sunday.
The announcement of another 881 deaths of people with coronavirus is yet another tragic piece of news.
And we know that the true death toll to date is higher: this figure doesn’t include people who have died with coronavirus but whose death has not yet been reported to the Department for Health and Social Care.
However this is a fall in the daily total compared to Wednesday’s announcement of 938.
Any fall in the daily figure is to be welcomed, but the scientists advising the government have warned that we shouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow’s figures once again set a record.
They have suggested that the peak of the epidemic may not arrive before next week.
The trends over the last week do suggest that the measures that everyone are taking are having an effect on the epidemic.
Until last Saturday, the number of deaths was doubling every three-and-a-half days, growing by just over 20% every day.
Since then, the growth in the number of deaths has halved, down to about 10% a day.
Even once we pass the peak, we will see more people fall victim to this virus – but there are growing suggestions in the data that the lockdown is having the expected effect.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said social distancing measures were curbing the number of new cases and hospital admissions.
He explained that the death toll would continue to rise for about two weeks after intensive care admissions stabilise, as deaths lag behind admissions.
Earlier, Mr Raab chaired a virtual meeting of the emergency Cobra committee to discuss the lockdown measures.
According to new coronavirus laws, the health secretary must review the restrictions at least once every 21 days, with the first review due by 16 April.
There are now 65,077 confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK, an increase of 4,344 on Wednesday.
In other developments:
- There are now 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases around the world, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University
- A 101-year-old man has been discharged from hospital in Worcestershire after recovering from coronavirus at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch
- The Queen has written to those she would have presented with symbolic money during the annual Royal Maundy service, which was cancelled due to the pandemic
- Ofcom has launched a formal investigation into a London TV network’s broadcast of an interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke about coronavirus
- Admissions to hospital A&E departments in England fell last month by 23%, as calls to NHS 111 doubled