Doctors, nurses and paramedics from abroad are to have their visas extended so they can "focus on fighting coronavirus".

The extension will apply to around 2,800 migrant health professionals who are working for the NHS and have UK work visas which are due to expire before October 1.

They will be renewed automatically for a year free of charge so they can remain working in the country, the Home Office said.

The changes will also apply to their family members.

The government has said the changes will also apply to their family members. Credit: PA

Restrictions have also been lifted on how many hours international student doctors and nurses can work for the NHS per week, according to an announcement on Tuesday.

Deadlines for registered overseas nurses to pass skills tests will also be extended so they have more time to take exams while working on the front line.

2,800

NHS migrant health professionals will be able to have their visas extended free of charge.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "Doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a leading role in the NHS’s efforts to tackle coronavirus and save lives."

She added: "We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do.

"I don’t want them distracted by the visa process.

"That is why I have automatically extended their visas – free of charge – for a further year."

With Covid-19 testing now being rolled out to frontline NHS staff, at Tuesday's daily coronavirus briefing Cabinet minister Michael Govesaid "we must go further, faster" to increase availability.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told the Downing Street press conference: "More NHS staff are returning to the frontline, and more testing is taking place to help those self-isolating come back, and to protect those working so hard in our hospitals and in social care."

He said a "critical constraint" on the ability to rapidly increase testing capacity is the availability of the chemical reagents, but added the Prime Minister and Health Secretary were working with companies worldwide to ensure the UK gets the material needed to increase tests "of all kind".

The Cabinet minister added that "the first of thousands of ventilators" will be delivered to the NHS next week. It comes as a consortium of manufacturers joined forces to build 10,000 ventilators to meet the demands of the crisis.

Mr Gove said the Government was also "buying more ventilators from abroad, including from EU nations".

Also addressing the presser, NHS England's Medical Director warned it is important the public "must not be complacent" despite a plateau in new cases in recent days.

Stephen Powis said "it's really important not to read too much into this," adding: "It's really important we keep complying with those [lockdown] instructions".

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