British PM tells public to stay home as deaths soar

The prime minister was expected to give a press conference later Friday after the latest government figures showed a 50% rise in weekly deaths, taking the total toll to more than 86,000, the highest in Europe.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference addressing the government's response to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, inside 10 Downing Street in London on 17 March 2020 Britain on Tuesday, March 17. Picture: AFP

LONDON, United Kingdom - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday urged the public to obey the national lockdown as coronavirus deaths continued to rise steeply but new case numbers fell this week.

"Please really think twice before leaving the house this weekend and only do so if it's absolutely necessary," Johnson said in a video posted on Twitter.

The prime minister was expected to give a press conference later Friday after the latest government figures showed a 50% rise in weekly deaths, taking the total toll to more than 86,000, the highest in Europe.

Meanwhile, the number of positive cases has reached nearly 3.3 million but new infections have fallen 7% in the last week.

All of Britain is under tough lockdown restrictions and people are supposed to stay at home except for over-riding reasons such as work, childcare and exercise.

Officials believe the declining case rates are due to the stringent lockdown, but concede there will be a time lag before hospitalisations and deaths also drop.

In a bid to inoculate the most vulnerable against COVID-19, Britain is rapidly rolling out its programme.

It has so far issued more than three million doses as part of a drive to vaccinate the four groups of most vulnerable people by the middle of next month, and every adult by the autumn.

"Jab by jab, we will win this fight against COVID," Johnson said, vowing that this "extraordinary national effort is only going to accelerate."

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