LONDON (AP) — The British government on Saturday launched a campaign to help domestic violence victims during the coronavirus lockdown following an increase in the number seeking assistance, while figures showed that the number of people in the U.K. dying after testing positive for COVID-19 neared 10,000.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson needs to take time to rest and recuperate following his three-day stint in intensive care with COVID-19. Patel said it was “vital” that the prime minister, who remains in a London hospital for a seventh night, returned to full health.
Johnson “continues to make very good progress” at St. Thomas’ hospital, his office at 10 Downing Street said in a statement. Johnson was hospitalized on April 5 and was transferred to the intensive care unit the following day where he received oxygen, but wasn’t put on a ventilator. He spent three nights there before moving back to a regular ward on Thursday evening.
Patel, who was hosting her first daily government coronavirus media briefing, also said she was “sorry if people feel that there have been failings” regarding the supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE, to staff in the National Health Service. The government has faced mounting criticism over PPE following sustained reports of some nurses using garbage bags to protect themselves. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier that 19 front-line NHS staff have died after testing positive for COVID-19.
Patel said the government will bolster online support services and hotlines for domestic violence and launched a national communications campaign that aims to “signpost victims” to where they can access help.
“For the victims of these crimes, home is not the safe haven that it should be,” she said.
Though there hasn’t yet been a sustained rise in reports of domestic abuse during the lockdown to police, Patel said that there has been an “extremely concerning” increase in those seeking help.
She noted that last week Britain’s national domestic violence hotline reported a 120% increase in the number of calls it received in just one 24-hour period. She also said the government’s “stay at home” message didn’t apply to victims of domestic abuse and that authorities will work to ensure there is refuge for victims and their children if they need to escape their home.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, warned abusers to “not think that this is a time where you can get away with this.”
Overall, he said there had been a 21% fall in overall crime in the last four weeks compared to the same period last year and that as of Thursday, police had issued 1,084 fines for breaches of coronavirus regulations in England and Wales. He said a “small minority of people” have failed to follow the government’s guidance and that police will publish enforcement data every two weeks during the crisis.
“In those few cases where police forces have made mistakes with those new regulations, they have quickly sought to correct them and provide clarity,” he said.
Earlier, the government reported 917 more people died in the hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus, taking the total to 9,875. The increase was slightly lower than the daily high of 980 recorded in the previous 24-hour period. That increase was higher than the daily peaks recorded in Italy and Spain, the two European countries with the highest total number of coronavirus-related deaths. Comparisons may not be precise. The U.K. deaths reported each day occurred over several days or even weeks, and the total only includes deaths in hospitals.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia.
Queen Elizabeth II, meanwhile, stressed the need for the British people to continue to abide with lockdown restrictions over the rest of the Easter weekend.
In a two-minute audio broadcast from Windsor Castle, the queen said that by “keeping apart, we keep others safe” and that the coronavirus “will not overcome us.”
Social distancing rules were observed, with the queen delivering the address alone into a microphone from the castle’s White Drawing room while the sound engineer was in a nearby room.
Though inevitably different this year, the queen said “Easter isn’t canceled; indeed, we need Easter as much as ever.”
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