UK will have done well if fewer than 20,000 die, says NHS director

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The United Kingdom will have done well if it comes through the coronavirus crisis with fewer than 20,000 deaths, Stephen Powis, the national medical director of the National Health Service, said on Saturday.

When asked if he hoped that the United Kingdom was not on the same trajectory as countries such as Italy, Powis said: “If we can keep deaths below 20,000 we will have done very well in this epidemic.”

“If it is less than 20,000... that would be a good result though every death is a tragedy, but we should not be complacent about that,” said Powis, speaking at a news conference in Downing Street alongside Business Secretary Alok Sharma.

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He said the NHS had been working incredibly hard to increase the intensive care capacity beyond the 4,000 beds it typically had.

He said the NHS was preparing operating theatres and recovery areas to take critically ill patients. He said that was going on in London hospitals and almost doubling capacity though it had not yet been used to treat patients.

“At the moment, I am confident the capacity is there,” Powis said. “We have not reached capacity.”

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