LONDON - At least 24,000 people in the UK have died after suffering confirmed or suspected Covid-19, new figures show, as the nation paid tribute to frontline workers who have lost their lives.

Some 24,243 deaths involving coronavirus have now been registered across the UK, analysis by the PA news agency shows, as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported there had been more than 4,000 deaths in care homes in England. However the true toll is thought to be far higher.

It comes as the nation held a minute's silence to honour those who have lost their lives on the frontline following a campaign from Unison, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal of College of Nursing.

People across the UK paused for a minute in tribute to the sacrifice made by those in roles ranging from doctors and nurses to carers, cleaners, porters and bus drivers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has just returned to work this week after recovering from Covid-19, joined the countrywide commemoration, as did Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

It comes as the NHS is preparing to resume key non-coronavirus services, including the most urgent cancer care, over fears thousands of patients could be having their illnesses made worse or missed altogether.

Professor Karol Sikora, a cancer specialist and dean at the University of Buckingham medical school, said the NHS must get going again on heart and cancer care, adding there was a need to avoid a "catastrophe" on cancer.

Earlier, the Health Secretary was confronted on LBC radio by the son of a medic who died two weeks after warning the Government about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Intisar Chowdhury, 18, the son of Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a consultant urologist at Homerton hospital in east London, asked Mr Hancock whether he regretted not taking his father's concerns seriously and asked him to "openly acknowledge" there had been mistakes in handling the virus.

Answering the question, the Health Secretary said: "Intisar, I'm really sorry about your dad's death and I have seen the comments you've made and what you've said in public and I think it's very brave of you.

"We took very, very seriously what your father said and we've been working around the clock to ensure that there's enough protective equipment."

During the interview, Mr Hancock also suggested that some sport may be allowed to resume behind closed doors as long as it could be carried out in a "socially distanced" way.

"I know that the horse racing fraternity are... looking at how they can do socially-distant, behind closed doors horse racing," he said.

"I think that these are important things to explore and then to tackle the practical questions that they raise."

He added: "I do think it's doable but a lot of work needs to be done to find a way to make it happen."


Elsewhere


– Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, said he believes more coronavirus deaths are now occurring in care homes and at home than in hospitals.

– Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told the Commons Science and Technology Committee he would be "terribly worried" about lifting lockdown measures with no or limited knowledge of the population's immunity against coronavirus.

– Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, the health service's digital innovation arm, told the committee people can be "confident" their personal data will not be compromised when using a contact tracing app.

– More than 100 NHS and social care workers are now known to have died in the UK, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

– There will be an official RAF fly-past to mark NHS fundraiser Captain Tom Moore's 100th birthday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

– The Times reported that schools will remain shut next month, but shops selling non-essential items will be allowed to reopen if customers can be kept two metres apart. People could also be allowed to mix with a wider group of friends or family, according to the paper.

In the LBC interview, Mr Hancock said he does not think there is "lockdown fatigue" or an appetite for an exit route among the public.

"If you look at surveys of the public, if you talk to members of the public, if you look at how much the public are following the measures, the public are following the lockdown brilliantly," he said.

"There's a media debate about it and I understand that.

"But actually the proportion of the public who support the lockdown remains absolutely solid.

"The number of people who are following the rules remains incredibly high.

"The number of people who are taking journeys, for instance, has barely changed on three weeks ago."

The Government has been under increasing pressure over easing the lockdown, with Mr Johnson saying on Monday more would be said about the issue in the coming days.

But Downing Street played down reports that the Government will announce its lockdown exit strategy this week.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "We've set out that we will review social distancing measures by May 7. The Government is focused upon that date."

It is understood that ministers may, however, set out how the Government believes the fight against infections is going by the end of this week.

The Government's five tests which must be met before the measures are relieved have not yet been achieved, the PM's spokesman said.

"We're not at that point yet," he said. "I don't think we're suggesting for a moment that the five tests currently are met – we will have to wait until they are."

Asked if it was possible to meet the target of 100,000 daily tests by this Thursday, Mr Hancock said: "We're still on track but it's a big big task. There's a lot of things that we need to get right so there's no guarantees in this life but we still are on track."

Mr Hancock then agreed a £100 bet with host Nick Ferrari, with the LBC presenter promising to give the money to Hospice UK if the target is met by May 1.

Mr Hancock also told Mr Ferrari he is "worried" about a rare but serious new syndrome in children "that we think may be caused by coronavirus".

Experts are looking in detail at the syndrome, which causes a type of sepsis shock in youngsters and has been reported in hospitals in the UK and around Europe.