An ambulance driver at St Thomas’ Hospital A&E department on March 24, 2020 in London
Topline: A British government call on Tuesday for an army of volunteers to support the National Health Service in its fight against the coronavirus crisis has surpassed its goal in less than 24 hours, with more than 250,000 people signing up by Wednesday.
- Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, issued a call on Tuesday for 250,000 people in good health to register as NHS Volunteer Responders and take on tasks such as shopping, delivering medicines and helping 1.5 million vulnerable people who are self-isolating to lower their risk of catching coronavirus.
- That includes the immunocompromised, and people over 70.
- Volunteers sign up through the NHS’ ‘Good Sam’ responder app where, once registered, they can see which local taks need doing.
Crucial comment: NHS England executive Stephen Powis described it as an “overwhelming response”. He told the BBC on Wednesday: “I think at times of crisis, people come together. And the vast majority of people in this country are doing what the government has asked us all to do. But it’s important that everyone does that as that will save lives.”
How it works: Volunteers must be over-18, in good health, and can join in one of four capacities:
- Community response volunteer to deliver supplies to people who are self-isolating;
- Patient transport volunteer to help recovered patients settle back at home;
- NHS transport volunteer to move supplies and equipment between NHS sites;
- ‘Check in and Chat’ volunteer to call those in self-isolation who suffer from loneliness.
In numbers: The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.K. has risen rapidly in recent days, with more than 8,100 having been infected to date including Prince Charles, while 422 people have died.
Key background: The latest volunteer call comes amid an accelerated U.K. government response to the coronavirus as the number of new confirmed cases picks up speed. Also announced this week was the conversion of London’s biggest convention centre, the ExCel centre in east London, into a makeshift 4,000-bed hospital to deal with coronavirus cases, while almost 12,000 retired medical staff answered a separate government call for a return to the frontline to help battle the virus. Thousands of final year medics and student nurses will also join the effort.
The ExCeL Centre is being temporarily shifted into a makeshift field hospital to treat coronavirus … [+]
Millions of people in the U.K., like in much of Europe, are being urged to stay at home except for essential and NHS workers, while non-essential businesses are closed. People can only leave their homes for one session of exercise, or to get food or medical treatment. But there has been confusion and criticism over the government’s messaging and motives, as construction workers are being allowed to continue commuting and working in concerns that the economy is being prioritised over public health.