The Prime Minister has said the UK is now “past the peak” of its coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at his first Downing Street press conference since he was hospitalised with Covid-19, Boris Johnson said the disease’s spread is on a “downward slope” in Britain.
He praised the NHS, which he said had “at no stage” been overwhelmed by the pandemic.
Referencing his own experience of contracting coronavirus, as well as Wednesday’s arrival of his newborn son with fiancee Carrie Symonds, the Prime Minister said: “I want to thank the NHS for so much – including getting me back here and, I might add, a very much happier hospital visit yesterday.”
But he also confirmed total deaths in the UK from the virus are close to 27,000 – the third highest death toll in the world after the US and Italy.
Johnson said: “Families every day are continuing to lose loved ones before their time.
“We grieve for them and with them, but as we grieve, we are strengthened in our resolve to defeat this virus to get this whole country back to health, back on its feet.”
But he added: “At no stage has our NHS been overwhelmed.
“No patient went without a ventilator, no patient was deprived of intensive care, we have five of the seven projected Nightingale wards.
“It is thanks to that massive collective effort to shield the NHS that we avoided an uncontrollable and catastrophic epidemic where the reasonable worst-case scenario was 500,000 deaths.
“I can confirm today that for the first time we are past the peak of this disease.
“We are past the peak and on the downward slope.”
The PM said he would next week set out how to kickstart the economy but warned there must be a “sustained fall in deaths” before easing lockdown restrictions.
He added: “We must all make sure that the measures we take do not risk a second spike that would overwhelm the NHS.”
It follows a document set out by the Scottish Government last week outlining how lockdown measures might be lift.
On easing the lockdown, Johnson continued: “Until this day comes (when a vaccine is ready), and we cannot say exactly when this will be, we are going to have to beat this disease by our growing resolve and ingenuity.
“I will be setting out a comprehensive plan next week to explain how we can get our economy moving, our children back to school and into childcare, and thirdly how we can travel to work and make life in the workplace safer.”