The death toll in the UK has soared again, with 563 deaths and 4324 new cases recorded in one day.

The dramatic spike sees the number of total deaths reach 2352 with almost 30,000 known to be infected, as debate rages on the country's testing programme.

The pandemic has also seen the historic cancellation of some of the UK's most iconic events - none more so than the Wimbledon tennis championships, called off for the first time since the Second World War.

After an emergency meeting on Thursday (NZT) between the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and relevant stakeholders, the inevitable decision was made to cancel the grass court Grand Slam which was scheduled to start on June 29.

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In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers had already ruled out playing in front of empty stands or attempting to take advantage of the postponed Olympic Games by shifting the tournament.

The huge leap in fatalities is 48 per cent higher than the previous day's total of 381 and makes the UK now the fifth worst-affected nation in Europe.

Victims ranged in age from 13 to 99, with the youngest victim in the UK yet dying in King's College hospital in London.

As coronavirus continues to spread around the world, face masks are in high demand as people look for ways to protect themselves. Video / BBC
The restrictive testing programme in the UK has been criticised. Photo / Getty Images
The restrictive testing programme in the UK has been criticised. Photo / Getty Images

The true total of infection can't be known, with Britain's restrictive testing programme being blamed for the paucity of information.

Richard Horton, editor of medical journal The Lancet, said Britain's handling of the Covid-19 crisis was "the most serious science policy failure in a generation".

In a tweet, he noted that England's deputy chief medical officer said last week that "'there comes a point in a pandemic where that [testing] is not an appropriate intervention".

"Now [testing is] a priority," Horton said. "Public message: utter confusion."

Like some other countries, the UK has restricted testing to hospitalised patients, leaving people with milder symptoms unsure whether they have had the virus.

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Many scientists say wider testing - especially of health care staff - would allow medics who are off work with symptoms to return if they are negative, and would give a better picture of how the virus spreads.

The issue has become an incipient political crisis for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has mild symptoms and is working from isolation in the prime minister's Downing Street apartment.

The UK initially performed about 5000 tests a day, but the government promised to increase that number to 10,000 by the end of last week and to 25,000 by mid-April. The target has not been met, with 8630 tests carried out Monday, the last day for which figures are available.

A hospital worker at St Thomas' hospital in London, England. Photo / Getty Images
A hospital worker at St Thomas' hospital in London, England. Photo / Getty Images

In Britain, about 20 per cent of tests have been positive, suggesting a substantial number of cases are being missed.

Critics of the British government say the testing debacle is typical of its sluggish and complacent response to the pandemic.

The UK was slower than many European countries to implement measures such as closing schools, bars and restaurants and telling people to stay home to impede transmission of the virus. A nationwide lock-down was imposed just over a week ago.

Events cancelled

Wimbledon was cancelled on Wednesday because of the coronavirus pandemic, the first time since World War II that the oldest Grand Slam tennis tournament won't be played.

The All England Club announced after a two-day emergency meeting that the event it refers to simply as The Championships is being scrapped for 2020.

That hasn't happened since 1945.

A closed restaurant in Wimbledon displays tennis branding as the Wimbledon Tennis Championships is cancelled due to Covid-19. Photo / Getty Images
A closed restaurant in Wimbledon displays tennis branding as the Wimbledon Tennis Championships is cancelled due to Covid-19. Photo / Getty Images

Wimbledon was scheduled to be played on the club's grass courts on the outskirts of London from June 29 to July 12.

Instead, the next edition of the tournament will be June 28 to July 11, 2021.

Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer surely spoke for many with a one-word message on Twitter: "Devastated."

Britain's cultural life has also been impacted, with the news that Edinburgh's festivals will not be held this year.

The decision is the first cancellation since the Edinburgh International Festival launched in 1947 to bring performing arts to the community after World War II.

Now numbering five, organisers say the annual festivals are the world's second-biggest cultural event after the Olympic Games, which also have been postponed because of the pandemic.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says the decision is "heartbreaking" but "absolutely the right one".

Organisers say they hope the return next year will "boost both our spirits and our economy".

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website
-Additional reporting, AP