UK records 69 hospital coronavirus deaths in preliminary toll

A further 69 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to preliminary figures. 

England alone saw 61 hospital deaths and all victims were between 54 and 96 years old. 

Four of England's confirmed deaths had underlying health conditions and were aged between 56 and 92.

This figure is set to be much higher when all-settings data - which includes deaths in care homes and the wider community - is released later today. 

Wales reported three new deaths and Northern Ireland reported five. 

Scotland has not released its daily data yet and the Scot.gov website says there will be a 'short delay' in publishing the numbers today.

Even so, today's death toll is already a 6.2 per cent rise on last Sunday's 65.

Wales has reported 950 coronavirus cases and Northern Ireland has seen 1,012. 

England has not released its case figures yet. 

The news of progress on the Covid-19 vaccine came as: 

It was revealed MPs DID flout 10pm bar curfew but Matt Hancock refused 30 TIMES to say if he was among them as House of Commons bosses are accused of a cover-up; Mayor Andy Burnham blamed Chancellor Rishi Sunak for being 'the problem' in row over financial support for Manchester Tier 3 lockdown and accuses him of making 'wrong judgements' throughout pandemic; Tory MPs demanded Boris Johnson set a 'clear end date' for local lockdowns and set out a strategy to get life back to normal amid fears ministers could this week agree new 'super' Tier Three rules; Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is accused of breaking two-week quarantine rules after being photographed at a London club 10 days after returning from a White House event in the US Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was accused of cynically positioning himself against PM as he calls for half-term lockdown.

A further 69 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to preliminary figures

Yesterday, Britain recorded its highest number of coronavirus deaths in four months after 150 victims were announced. 

Department of Health statistics show the grim milestone hasn't been reached since June 10 when the UK saw 164 lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths. 

It is also a surge of 85 per cent compared to last Saturday, when 81 deaths were registered, and a rise of 16 from yesterday's toll of 136 victims. 

Health chiefs yesterday posted another 16,171 cases, up only six per cent on the figure recorded last Saturday (15,166), in a sign that the UK's coronavirus outbreak may be beginning to slow. 

As many as 15,650 more positive tests were added to the tally yesterday. 

It comes after Andy Burnham today accused Boris Johnson of 'exaggerating' the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Greater Manchester as Michael Gove said the mayor was 'posturing' and must accept the region moving into Tier Three restrictions.

Mr Johnson said in a Downing Street press conference on Friday that 'time is of the essence' and the situation is 'grave' as he warned 'cases doubled in the last nine days'. 

But Mr Burnham, who is refusing to accept new rules unless ministers bring forward a more generous package of financial support, said this morning that 'figures have been falling in Manchester itself in the last few days'.      

Expert analysis published by the Sunday Telegraph suggested cases in Manchester have now decreased for nine days in a row.  

Meanwhile, statistics published by Manchester City Council for the period between October 4-10 showed there were 2,484 people with a newly confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19, giving an infection rate of 449.3 per 100,000 people. 

However, in the previous seven day period there were 3,224 people with a newly confirmed diagnosis, giving an infection rate of 583.2 per 100,000. 

The numbers suggest that cases have also been falling in the wider Greater Manchester region and not just in the city itself.  

On October 12 there were an average of 1,563 new cases confirmed per day over the preceding seven days in the region.

But by Thursday October 15 the average had dropped to 1,076 new cases confirmed per day. 

Mr Burnham remains in a tense stand off with the Government and Mr Gove claimed this morning that the mayor was guilty of 'indulging' in 'political positioning' as he urged the Labour chief to back down. 

But Mr Burnham dismissed accusations of 'playing politics' as he called for an end to the 'war of words' but also left the door open to a legal challenge if ministers decide to impose the measures without his agreement. 

Official data shows the rolling seven day average of coronavirus cases in Greater Manchester has been falling in recent days

Official data shows the rolling seven day average of coronavirus cases in Greater Manchester has been falling in recent days

Artist Peter Barber works on a mural in Manchester city centre yesterday, depicting nurse Melanie Senior after The National Portrait Gallery commissioned the mural based on a photograph by Johannah Churchill

Artist Peter Barber works on a mural in Manchester city centre yesterday, depicting nurse Melanie Senior after The National Portrait Gallery commissioned the mural based on a photograph by Johannah Churchill

SAGE expert warns Christmas will be 'tough' and will not be the 'usual celebration'

Christmas will be 'tough' this year and is unlikely to be a traditional family celebration if coronavirus infections continue to increase, a Government expert has warned.

Professor Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the UK faces a 'very, very difficult' period over the next three to six months.

But the Wellcome Trust director said there is 'light at the end of the tunnel', as he believes a Covid-19 vaccine and effective treatment will be ready in the first quarter of 2021.

Prof Farrar told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: 'Christmas will be tough this year. I don't think it's going to be the usual celebration it is and all families coming together, I'm afraid.

'I think we have to be honest and realistic and say that we are in for three to six months of a very, very difficult period.

'The temperatures drop, we are all indoors more often, we have the other infections that come this time of year.

'It's much better for us to be upfront and honest now, and say we are in for a really difficult time, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.'

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Mr Johnson on Friday urged Mr Burnham to work with the Government but also said he retained the right to unilaterally intervene if necessary.

A move to Tier Three would see pubs and bars told to close and a strict ban on households mixing indoors. 

Mr Gove stressed this morning that ministers do want to work with Mr Burnham as he warned of the consequences of a failure to act swiftly. 

He told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: 'I want to reach an agreement with the political leadership in Greater Manchester.

'I want them to put aside for a moment some of the political positioning that they have indulged in and I want them to work with us in order to ensure that we save lives and protect the NHS because an absence of action will mean… more people get infected.

'As more people get infected that will place more pressure on the NHS and the more people sadly in intensive care beds in the North West and in Manchester who are suffering from coronavirus, the fewer intensive care beds are there for people with other serious conditions.

'All of this is happening as we move closer to the winter and

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