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UK suffers record COVID-19 death toll as PM's condition 'improves' in hospital

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds a digital press conference about the COVID-19 coronavirus
Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds a digital press conference about the COVID-19 coronavirus   -   Copyright  AP
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The UK suffered a second successive day of record COVID-19 deaths, taking its overall toll to more than 7,000.

There has been 938 fatalities in the last 24 hours, up from 786 deaths the day before.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to "improving" in hospital, as he is treated for COVID-19.

He spent a second night in intensive care over persistent symptoms of the disease, which he was diagnosed with two weeks ago. Johnson was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in London on Sunday evening.

The PM is "responding to treatment" his spokesman James Slack said, adding he continues to receive "standard oxygen treatment" and is breathing without other assistance.

Johnson is thought to be the first world leader to be diagnosed with COVID-19.

Leading Wednesday's daily government briefing on the response to the outbreak, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £750 million funding for charities to help deal with the coronavirus crisis.

But there are many questions still about the UK's response. Britain was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people's movements in a bid to curb infections, and the government has struggled to meet its goal of dramatically increasing the number of individuals tested for the virus.

Britain initially restricted testing to patients in hospitals with coronavirus symptoms, but has begun testing health care workers and their families. The government has said even broader testing will be part of the country's exit strategy from the lockdown, and has promised to test 100,000 people a day by the end of April. The current number is about 14,000 a day.

Slack defended the government's response, saying "we took our decisions based on the best available medical and scientific advice", insisting the government took the right measures at the right time.

In Johnson's absence, it's unclear who would decide whether to ease the lockdown - the initial three-week period set for the restrictions expires next week, but with cases and deaths still growing, officials say it is too soon to change course.