Update: 7th April:
The Health Secretary committed to carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April and has issued a call for more manufacturers to produce new ventilators - the first arrive to the NHS next week and thousands more are on the way.
The NHS Nightingale Hospital has opened and initially has 500 beds, with capacity for up to 4,000. A deal has also been made with private hospitals to put 20,000 staff, 8,000 beds and 1,200 ventilators at the NHS's disposal.
A further expansion of antibody testing is soon to be rolled out, testing who has the virus and is now immune, so they can get back to work and normal life. This includes commercial antibody tests to tell if someone has previously had the disease. The Government is buying and will distribute millions of these.
27th March Announcement:
The Chancellor has made it clear we will do whatever it takes to protect our NHS frontline, not just through Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but by looking at additional capacity. This includes the independent hospitals sector and the support available, as well as the £1.3 billion allocated to speed up the discharge of patients, £1.6 billion allocated to local authorities for adult social care and, of course, funding, such as the £30 million for diagnostics research and £10 million for diagnostic testing which has also been allocated in recent days.
The Government has also clarified its position regarding virus blood-testing kits. The 3.5 million testing kits ordered by the Government, which will arrive within weeks, will all be intended for key public sector workers including the NHS and the company Boots will be involved in this process.
The military have already started delivering over 7.5 million pieces of health equipment to the NHS, including PPE, to the frontline of the nation’s response to the Coronavirus challenge. Millions more items of PPE for our NHS staff have been delivered to NHS locations across the country in the last few days and will continue to so in the coming days and weeks. Manufacturing of PPE, hand sanitizer and ventilators has been ramped up, with numerous companies and industries diverting their resources towards manufacturing the resources needed to fight the Coronavirus.
The Government yesterday started the recruiting process for The NHS Volunteer Responders, with the aim of recruiting 250,000 volunteers to help support our NHS for shopping and delivery of medicines, as well as to support those most vulnerable who are self-isolating. This has already been a huge success, with over 400,000 volunteers having already signed up within 24 hours of the announcement. We are also bringing in 35,000 more NHS staff, both new and returning, to support our vital public health services.
I can confirm in all meetings I have attended on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, access to PPE and ventilators has been a large focus of these. We are looking to use all options from military facilities to looking into shipping and other options. We are determined to leave nothing unexplored in order to be able to support our NHS staff to get through this unprecedented public health crisis. An emergency bill to strengthen the Coronavirus (COVID-19) response plans has been set out to Parliament, which was announced by the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock MP. This bill, if passed this week, would be debated and voted on every six months to ensure Parliament was "content with its continuation".
The Emergency Coronavirus Bill enables key action across five main areas:
a. Increasing the available health and social care workforce;
b. Easing the burden on frontline staff;
c. Containing and slowing the virus;
d. Managing the deceased with respect and dignity; and
e. Supporting people through the crisis
Details of the policies contained in the Bill is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-bill-what-it-will-do/what-the-coronavirus-bill-will-do
On 24th March, yesterday the Health Secretary announced the opening of the new, temporary NHS Nightingale hospital at the Excel Centre in London, made up of two wards each of 2,000 people. With the help of the military and NHS clinicians, we will ensure we have the capacity for everyone to get the care they need.
This Government also announced on March 16th a request for manufacturers in all industries to support the production and supply of ventilators and ventilator components, having sent ventilator blueprints to major manufacturers. This ‘wartime’ drive to divert manufacturing has received overwhelming support from manufacturers and businesses so far and these companies are helping to produce 20,000 ventilators in as little as two weeks from when this was announced. Local Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP also announced the Government have agreed with local councils to provide free car parking for our NHS staff and social care workers.
For more information on COVID-19 please see the Government’s website: https://gov.uk/coronavirus