19 NHS staff have died from coronavirus, Health secretary confirms amid warning UK could still be two weeks away from the peak
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The Health Secretary confirmed the figure on BBC Breakfast on Saturday after avoiding the question during Friday’s briefing.
However Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast the figure on Saturday and said: "My heart goes out to their families, these are people who have put themselves on the front line.
"The work is going on to establish whether they caught coronavirus in the line of duty while at work or whether, like so many other people, caught it in the rest of their lives. It is obviously quite difficult to work that out.
"What matters is we pay tribute to their service."
He added: "I'm particularly struck at the high proportion of people from minority ethnic backgrounds and people who have come to this country to work in the NHS who have died of coranavirus
"I find it really upsetting actually and it is a testament to the fact that people who have come from all over the world have come and given their lives in service to the NHS and paid for that with their lives.
"I think we should recognise their enormous contribution."
This comes as Mr Hancock warned that the UK has not reached the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, which scientific advisors have warned could be two weeks away.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was still too early to determine whether the peak of coronavirus infections in the UK had been reached.
He said: "The good news is we have seen the number of hospital admissions starting - starting, I stress - to flatten out.
"You can see (from the Government's charts) that instead of going up exponentially, as they would have done if we had not taken the measures, that they are starting to come down and flatten.
"We haven't seen that enough to have confidence to make changes.
"The answer to your question, about have we reached the peak, is nobody knows."
When asked about the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, saying the UK was two weeks away from the peak, Mr Hancock added: "Our judgment is that we are not there yet and that we haven't seen a flattening enough to be able to say that we have reached the peak."