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Boris Johnson back at work as UK death toll passes 20,000

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has returned to 10 Downing St after a three-week absence due to COVID-19.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is back at work at 10 Downing Street after recovering from COVID-19.

Mr Johnson arrived back at work yesterday evening, after spending a week in hospital and two weeks recovering in his country home.

He returned to a growing chorus of calls from senior Conservative Party figures to begin easing the UK's lockdown amid mounting economic costs.

The comments have rocked Downing Street and put pressure on Boris Johnson.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted there could be no immediate relaxation, saying the outbreak was still at a "delicate and dangerous" stage.

Johnson is expected to chair a meeting of the government's COVID-19 war cabinet this morning, with Mr Raab saying Johnson is "raring to go".

But the foreign secretary said the government would proceed "cautiously" in order to avoid a second peak in the outbreak.

"We need to make sure that the next steps are sure-footed, which is why we are proceeding very cautiously, and we are sticking to the scientific advice," he told Sky News yesterday.

NHS England medical director Professor Stephen Powis said while the number of patients in hospital was continuing to fall, it could easily pick back up if the restrictions were relaxed.

"My fear is that those curves won't continue to be on a downward trend, but will start to go on an upward trend," Prof Powis said.

His warning came at the end of a weekend that saw the coronavirus death toll in UK hospitals pass the 20,000 mark - with fears that many more have died in care homes, hospices or in the community.

According to the latest official figures, a total of 20,732 patients had died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm local time on Saturday, up by 413 from the day before.

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Even before he was back in London, Mr Johnson was facing calls from a series of wealthy Tory backers who have donated millions of pounds to the party coffers to begin lifting the lockdown to allow the economy to start up again.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned she could delay lifting of the restrictions there if she thought the government was moving too quickly.

"If, and it is an if - the UK Government took decisions that I thought were premature in terms of coming out of the lockdown, then clearly I would want to make sure that Scotland did what I judged was best to protect the population," she told The Andrew Marr Show.

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Source: 9News

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