Fifth person dies in UK after contracting coronavirus

Four people have died in the UK after contracting coronavirus, Matt Hancock confirmed on Monday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

A fifth person has died in the UK after contracting the coronavirus, NHS England has said.

A patient in their 70s who had “a number of significant and long term health conditions” has passed away after testing positive for Covid-19.

The news comes just hours after Matt Hancock confirmed a fourth person, another patient in their 70s who was being treated for underlying health conditions, was confirmed to have died.

In a statement on behalf of Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, chief executive Daniel Elkeles said: “We can confirm that sadly, a patient in their seventies who was very unwell with a number of significant and long term health conditions has passed away at St Helier Hospital. They had tested positive for Covid-19.

“Our thoughts and condolences remain with the patient’s family and loved ones at this difficult time.”

Earlier on Monday, the health secretary told MPs there are now “four confirmed deaths” connected to the outbreak, as he made a statement on the government’s measures to tackle the virus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs there are now “four confirmed deaths” connected to the outbreak, as he made a statement on the government’s measures to tackle the virus. (AP)

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “I am very sorry to report that a fourth patient in England who tested positive for Covid-19 has sadly died.

“I offer my sincere condolences to their family and friends and ask that their privacy is respected.”

It appears the the fourth person who died of the virus got it in the UK, and full contact tracing has begun. The patient was being treated in a Wolverhampton hospital.

319 people in the UK have tested positive for the virus, according to the Department of Health.

Hancock said: “Here in the UK, as of this morning, there were 319 confirmed cases.

“Very sadly this now includes four confirmed deaths. I entirely understand why people are worried and concerned, and we send our condolences to the families.”

It comes after the government held an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the UK’s response to the coronavirus.

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Afterwards, it announced the UK will remain in the "containment" stage of its response rather than moving to phase two of the four-part plan to tackle the virus: delay.

The delay stage will mean the government ramping up efforts to delay the spread of the illness, by considering closing schools, postponing or cancelling large-scale gatherings and encouraging people to work from home.

Chief medical adviser Chris Whitty giving evidence to parliament last week. (Getty)

Downing Street said the prime minister "will be guided by the best scientific advice" and that there was no need to cancel sporting events at this stage.

On Monday the Irish government decided to cancel the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin after advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

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But Hancock said the UK would “make the right choices of which action to pursue at the right moment”.

“The scientific advice is clear: acting too early creates its own risk,” he said. “So we will do what is right to keep people safe. Guided by the science, we will act at the right time.”

Hancock said the NHS was “well prepared”, with record numbers of doctors and nurses.

The third British person to die from Covid-19 was a man who had recently returned from Italy and had underlying health conditions.

A man in his 80s was the second person to die after testing positive for the coronavirus. The first was a woman in her 70s, who also had underlying health issues.