Coronavirus: 250,000 people urged to become volunteers to help NHS and fight Covid-19

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government is launching a new scheme to recruit 250,000 volunteers to support the NHS through the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at the Government press briefing, Mr Hancock said more than 35,000 extra NHS staff would be helping fight against Covid-19, including retired doctors, nurses and final years students joining frontline services.

He also announced that a temporary hospital the NHS Nightingale hospital - would be set up at London’s ExCel centre - with a capacity of 4,000.

He said: “We are seeking a quarter of a million volunteers, people in good health to help the NHS, for shopping, for the delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielding to protect their own health.”

The plea for volunteers comes after Mr Hancock urged former hospital staff, including doctors and nurses, to return to the NHS last week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that more than 35,000 extra NHS staff would be helping fight against Covid-19. Credit: PA

So far, 11,788 recently retired NHS staff had responded to the call to return to the service. They included 2,660 doctors, more than 2,500 pharmacists and other staff and 6,147 nurses.

"I pay tribute to each and every one of those who is returning to the NHS at its hour of need,” Mr Hancock said.

Some 5,500 final-year medics and 18,700 final-year student nurses would “move to the frontline” next week.

New hospital to deal with coronavirus patients

Mr Hancock also announced that London’s ExCel Centre would be converted into a temporary 4,000 bed hospital.

The NHS Nightingale Hospital is expected to be operational from next week.

He said: “We will, next week, open a new hospital – a temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the Excel centre in London.

London’s ExCel Centre would be converted into a temporary 4,000 bed hospital. Credit: PA

“The NHS Nightingale Hospital will comprise two wards, each of 2,000 people.

“With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians we will make sure that we have the capacity that we need so that everyone can get the support that they need.”

London has been the hardest hit by the coronavirus in the UK and the new facility is designed to alleviate pressure on other NHS services.

Government and TfL at loggerheads over Tube journeys

Speaking at Downing Street's daily press conference, Mr Hancock said Tube bosses should have services "running in full".

He said it would help ensure passengers were further apart which would help maintain social distancing guidelines.

Mr Hancock said: "There is no good reason in the information that I've seen that the current levels of Tube provision should be as low as they are. We should have more Tube trains running."

The Central Line during Tuesday morning's rush hour. Credit: Twitter/@b_michelke

Pictures posted on Tuesday morning on social media showed people packed into busy carriages.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said an increasing number of Transport for London staff were sick or self-isolating.

He said: “We cannot run more trains or buses. The only people who should use public transport are those who absolutely have to go to work. If that isn't you: stay home. If you absolutely have to use transport, avoid rush hour times.”