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UK coronavirus deaths rise above 11,000, government grapples with economic toll

LONDON (The Southern African Times) – The death toll from COVID-19 in British hospitals rose to 11,329 on Monday as the government – without its recuperating leader Boris Johnson – faced questions over its handling of the outbreak and the impact on the economy.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak has told colleagues Gross Domestic Product could shrink by up to 30% this quarter because of the coronavirus lockdown, The Times newspaper reported, and there was little hope restrictions would soon be lifted. 

The British death toll is the fifth highest globally and a senior scientific adviser to the government has said the country risks becoming the worst-hit in Europe.

Johnson left London’s St Thomas’ Hospital on Sunday after spending a week there, including three nights in intensive care, being treated for the disease. He said “things could have gone either way” for him while he was hospitalised. 

The government has had to defend its response to the outbreak, with complaints of insufficient testing, a dearth of protective kit for medics and questions about whether Johnson was too slow to impose a lockdown. 

Johnson is now convalescing at Chequers, his official country residence, with his pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds. His spokesman said on Monday he had spoken over the weekend with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for him. It was not known when Johnson would return to work. 

“Any decisions which he makes in relation to when he returns to government work will be following the advice of his medical team,” the spokesman said.

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