NHS coronavirus volunteer army gets 170,000 sign-ups overnight

More than 170,000 Brits have signed up overnight to volunteer with the NHS and help defeat coronavirus.

Stephen Powis, NHS England medical director, says he's "bowled over" by the public's willingness to help health workers on the front lines.

"Overnight 170,000 people have signed up – that's three a minute to help the NHS," he told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday. "It's an absolutely astonishing response.

"This is a health emergency, we can all play a role in ensuring we get on top of coronavirus and at the same time expand capacity in the NHS."

On Tuesday evening, Health Secretary Matt Hancock issued a call to arms, urging fit and healthy Brits to sign up to a National Help Service of 250,000 NHS Volunteer Responders

Live updates on COVID-19 cases near you

England: 4,792

  • London: 2,433
  • Midlands: 808
  • South East: 590
  • North West: 496
  • North East and Yorkshire: 446
  • East of England: 452
  • South West: 278

Scotland: 499

Wales: 418

Northern Ireland: 149

The volunteers will help the overstretched NHS to cope with the pandemic by delivering medicine and supplies to those at home in self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

"We are seeking a quarter of a million volunteers, people in good health, to help the NHS, for shopping, for delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielded to protect their own health," Mr Hancock said.

"The NHS responders is a new scheme set up so that people can come and help and make sure the NHS and the local services that are needed can get all the support that they can."

The home is now the "front line" in the battle against coronavirus, Mr Hancock said.

Volunteers will be carrying out simple but vital tasks, including:

  • Delivering medicines from pharmacies
  • Driving patients to appointments
  • Bringing them home from hospital
  • Making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home

Campaign leader Dr Nikki Kanani said: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment where a single action from one person can be the difference between life and death."

People wanting to volunteer for the National Help Service can sign up here.

Yesterday the UK death toll surged by 87 to 422, the highest daily total of the outbreak so far. There are now 8,077 confirmed cases.

The same day, the military delivered much-needed medical supplies to hospitals in the capital, including 50,000 face masks.

The NHS has warned that London hospitals could run out of intensive care beds within four days, while former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says there could be one million cases in the UK by next week.

British authorities have bought 3.5 million "game-changing" antibody tests that will reveal not just that someone has COVID-19 at present, but whether they've had it in the past.

It's believed that once someone has had coronavirus they become immune to it and will be able to safely return to work.

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