Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces UK PPE plan as Boris Johnson 'personally' thanks NHS staff

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has set out the UK's PPE plan as he reiterated the government's warning to the public to “stay at home” over the Easter weekend to limit the spread of coronavirus on the day the UK recorded its highest daily rise in Covid-19 deaths.

Speaking at the daily government coronavirus briefing, there was a note of optimism at the Prime Minister's condition, who is now reported to be able to take short walks. Mr Hancock said he was "very happy to report" that Boris Johnson continues to improve after he was moved out of intensive care on Thursday where he was being treated for coronavirus.

Announcing the PPE plan, which has three-strands, one of which is distribution, Mr Hancock said the goal of that “everyone” working in a critical role must get the personal protective equipment (PPE) that they need.

He added there is a “huge international demand” for PPE and a “global squeeze” on supply as he said distribution was a key goal of the plan, but that it would require a "Herculean logistical effort".

"We’ve brought together the NHS, private industry and the army, in fact, the armed forces, to create a giant PPE distribution network on an unprecedented scale,” he said.

Mr Hancock said that since the start of the outbreak there have been more than 742 million pieces of PPE delivered to the frontline.

3D-printers producing 3D-printed faceguards for NHS staff at the University of Hull. Credit: PA

“There’s enough PPE to go around, but only if it’s used in line with our guidance. We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource that it is.

“That means only using it when there’s a clinical need, and not using more than is needed,” he said.

Mr Hancock said the third strand of the PPE plan is about the future supply.

“We’re using up PPE on an unprecedented scale, so we’re constantly buying more from abroad, and now making it at home,” he said.

He thanked companies including Burberry, Rolls-Royce, McLaren and Diageo who are creating gowns, visors, Ineos and hand sanitiser.

Matt Hancock said the government would be publishing a three-stranded PPE plan. Credit: PA

Earlier, Downing Street said the Prime Minister was in “very good spirits” and able to do “short walks” between periods of rest as part of his care to aid his recovery after being discharged from intensive care.

Mr Johnson who spent three nights in intensive care after his coronavirus symptoms worsened, was moved to a ward at St Thomas’ Hospital on Thursday.

Mr Hancock said Mr Johnson wanted to “personally thank” the hospital team.

“His thoughts are with all of those who have been affected by this terrible disease.”

Downing Street have said it is too early to give a date on when the Prime Minister would be returning to work.

Mr Raab said on Thursday he had "all the authority" to "make the relevant decisions – whether it’s through chairing Cabinet updates, chairing Cobra, or indeed the morning meetings of senior ministers.”

Boris Johnson is able to go for short walks as he continues to improve. Credit: PA

Speaking at the coronavirus press conference on Good Friday, Mr Hancock urged people to continue to adhere to social distancing rules and stay at home.

“This is a national effort, and every single person in this country can play their part in this plan.

“This Easter will be another test of the nation’s resolve. It’s a time of year when people normally come together.

“But however warm the weather, however tempting your local beach or park, we need everyone to stay at home.

  • ITV News Correspondent Stacey Foster reports from a near deserted Stratford-Upon-Avon on what would usually be a bustling bank holiday in Shakespeare's hometown

“Because in hospitals across the country, NHS staff are battling day and night to keep desperately sick people breathing, and they need you to stay at home.”

His warning comes as the UK's coronavirus hospital death toll reached 8,958, a record daily rise of 980 patients in 24 hours.

Mr Hancock said the number of people in hospital who have tested positive for the disease stood at 19,304.

Mr Hancock claimed the NHS has not yet been “overrun” and that every person with coronavirus has been able to access care.

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said the UK was still in a “dangerous phase” in regard to the number of new coronavirus cases and that it was important to stick with the current measures.

An empty beach in Dorset on Good Friday. Credit: PA

The majority of Britons appeared to have heeded the Government’s rules and stayed at home over the Easter weekend.

The Government had launched a campaign urging the public to stay at home during the warm bank holiday, fearing repeats of scenes from last month when people flocked to tourist beauty spots.

But the public appear to have adhered to the lockdown measures and stayed away from areas that would normally be bustling during a warm Easter weekend.

The government have as yet not laid out plans as to how and when the lockdown will be lifted.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson while he is in hospital recovering with coronavirus, said on Thursday, it was still “too early” to lift the lockdown.

The restrictions are being kept under constant review but they are likely to last “several more weeks” according to one scientist advising the government.

On Friday, Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the Republic of Ireland’s coronavirus lockdown would be extended by at least three weeks, with restrictions in place until at least Tuesday 5 May.

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