BRITAIN has passed the peak of the coronavirus, Boris Johnson has said, but he warned that the UK was still far away from being able to ease off on the lockdown.

Speaking at his first Downing Street briefing since falling ill with Covid-19, the Prime Minister also hinted that his Government could be about to follow Nicola Sturgeon’s lead and recommend the use of face-coverings.

He said that, until there was a vaccine, the UK would need to beat this disease with “growing resolve and ingenuity”.

Johnson started off the briefing thanking the NHS for his treatment and for the “much happier hospital visit” on Wednesday, when his fiancee Carrie Symonds gave birth to a baby boy.

The Prime Minister revealed that 901,905 tests for coronavirus have been carried out in the UK, including 81,611 tests yesterday – up from 52,000 on the day before.

That could mean that the UK Government has hit, or has come close to hitting, their target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. Yesterday’s test figures will be released later today.

In total 171,253 people have tested positive, an increase of 6032 cases in 24 hours.

Another 674 people who have tested positive for coronavirus had died, taking that particular death toll to 26,711.

The Prime Minister praised the public for rising to the challenge of tackling the spread of the virus.

He said: “Staying in enforced confinement, not seeing family, not seeing friends or grandchildren, worrying about their jobs, and the future. And so my message to everyone again today is your effort, and your sacrifice is working, and has been proved to work.

“Today, the number of Covid hospital admissions is falling, the number of patients in ICU is falling.

“We’ve so far succeeded in the first two most important tasks we set ourselves as a nation to avoid the tragedy that engulfed other parts of the world. At no stage has our NHS been overwhelmed, no patient went without a ventilator, no patient was deprived of intensive care.”

He praised the “massive collective effort to shield the NHS” which, he added, meant the UK had “avoided an uncontrollable and catastrophic epidemic, where the reasonable worst case scenario was 500,000 deaths”.

Johnson added: “And so I can confirm today that for the first time we are past the peak of this disease, we’re past the peak. And we’re on the downward slope, and we have so many reasons to be hopeful for the long term.”

The Tory leader said he would be “setting out a comprehensive plan” next week on how to live with the coronavirus and get the economy moving, and get children back to school. He said a “huge amount of work” had been going into the plan and that he was trying to “build the maximum political consensus”.

Johnson said: “We’ve come through the peak, or rather, we’ve come under what could have been a vast peak, as though we’ve been going through some huge Alpine tunnel. And we can now see the sunlight and the pasture ahead of us, and so it is vital that we do not now lose control and run slap into a second, even bigger mountain.”

Asked about face-coverings, the Prime Minister promised that more details would be coming next week.

He said: “As part of coming out of the lockdown I do think that face coverings will be useful, for epidemiological reasons, but also for giving people confidence that they can go back to work.”

Earlier this week the Scottish Government recommended people cover their faces while in enclosed public spaces.

Johnson also dismissed attempts to compare the UK’s death rate to other countries, saying it was too soon to make that comparison.