Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News it “may well be” the case that the death toll of people with COVID-19 in Britain eventually surpasses the totals seen in the likes of Italy, Spain and France.
“We’ve been on similar trajectories to France and Italy,” he told Kay Burley@Breakfast.
“It may well be that we are, who knows, we don’t know that at the moment.
“For now, we just need to focus on managing this pandemic. Getting things moving in the right direction, making sure that we can save lives, making sure we’ve got capacity in the NHS to cope with this.
“All of those things are being done. People are working incredibly hard in the NHS to help people who are suffering from this virus.
“That’s our focus now, not necessarily contemplating where we may or may not end up in terms of total deaths at the end of this.”
The latest figures from the Department of Health show that a total of 21,678 people have died in UK hospitals after testing positive for the coronavirus.
As of Wednesday morning, there have been 23,660 deaths in France, 23,822 in Spain and 27,359 in Italy, according to Johns Hopkins University
But the true UK death toll will be much higher, as the daily Department of Health total does not include deaths in care homes and the community.
Later on Wednesday, the government will for the first time include these deaths in its daily total.
At the moment, there is an 11-day lag for the Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) data on the number of people who have died in care homes and their own homes after catching the virus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the move at the daily coronavirus news conference on Monday.
The Department of Health and Social Care said figures dating back from early March up to 28 April would also be declared.
Meanwhile, Mr Eustice has expressed confidence that the government will be able to meet its target of 100,000 daily COVID-19 tests by the end of this month.
From today, care home residents and staff, together with NHS patients and staff, can now get tested whether they have symptoms or not.
People over the age of 65, plus anyone in their households, are also eligible, but only if they have symptoms.
Some 43,453 tests were carried out across the UK on Monday.
“The capacity will be there and we are confident that those 100,000 people will be tested because we are widening this right out today so that anyone over the age of 65, anyone working in a key industry can get a test,” Mr Eustice said.
“They just need to go online and book one.”