Families of NHS and social care staff to receive £60,000 if loved one dies of coronavirus

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks

The families of NHS and social care staff who die of coronavirus in the course of their "essential frontline work" will receive a £60,000 payment, Matt Hancock has announced.

At the government's daily coronavirus press conference, the health secretary revealed that of the 21,092 people who had died of coronavirus in UK hospitals, 82 were NHS colleagues and 16 worked in social care.

“I feel a deep personal sense of duty that we must care for their loved ones,” he said.

Mr Hancock, announcing the new "life assurance scheme", admitted "nothing replaces the loss of a loved one" but said the government wanted to do "everything that we can" to support families dealing with bereavement.

Mr Hancock added that the Government was looking at other frontline professions who did not have access to a life assurance scheme.

He said: “As a Government, we are looking closely at other professions that work on the front line against coronavirus, who also do not have access to such schemes, to see where this may be required.”

Mr Hancock said the government is still aiming to conduct 250,000 tests a day – including antibody tests - despite still being well off its target for 100,000 tests a day by the end of April.

On Sunday there were just 37,024 tests carried out with just days to go before the deadline.

It is thought however that the number of tests carried out each day will dramatically increase day to day as essential workers book appointments for tests, after the government expanded eligibility to them last week.

“We want testing to continue to increase," Mr Hancock said.

"As you will know, the Prime Minister set a goal of 250,000 some time ago – especially for when the antibody tests come on stream.

“But, so far, there isn’t one of those that is clinically valid.”

Mr Hancock added: “It is important to note that we have already gone past the number of tests, per day, for instance, that they carry out in South Korea.

“We are approaching the levels that Germany undertakes.”

Mr Hancock also announced that some NHS services which had been paused due to the coronavirus outbreak will be restored from Tuesday.

He said: “As the number of hospitalisations from coronavirus begins to fall, I can announce that, starting tomorrow, we will begin the restoration of other NHS services – starting with the most urgent, like cancer care and mental health support.

“The exact pace of the restoration will be determined by local circumstances on the ground, according to local need and according to the amount of coronavirus cases that that hospital is having to deal with.”

At the press conference he was speaking alongside England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Stephen Powis, the medical director for England.

Both warned about the potential for the UK's coronavirus death toll to rise further.

Prof Whitty pointed to a "gradual decline" in the new number of deaths each day, but said "we’re definitely not consistently past the peak across the whole country at this point in time".

Earlier in the crisis his colleague, Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said an overall death toll below 20,000 would be a good result.

On Saturday the total number of coronavirus-hospital deaths passed 20,000 and there's believed to have been thousands more fatalities in other settings in the community, such as care homes.

Prof Whitty said there was still a “very long way to run” as he was asked about the expected death total the UK might face.

Prof Powis said despite the apparent decline in new cases and a plateauing in deaths, it was too early to say the UK is winning the fight against Covid-19.

“Those benefits have occurred not by luck, but because people have complied with the instructions that we have all been given and they have followed the science," he said.

But he said it would only continue to pay off if we continue to comply with social distancing measures.

“My fear, as the fear of all of us, is that those curves won’t continue to be on a down trend but will start to go in an upward trend.

“We are not at a point where any of us can be absolutely confident that that is not going to be the case – we want to avoid a second peak, we want to avoid a rise.”

For the first time at the daily press conference, a member of the public was allowed to ask a question, with 15,000 queries being submitted.

The first question from the public, from a woman in Skipton, was: “I’m missing my grandchildren so much. Please can you let me know if, after the five criteria are met, is being able to hug our closest family one of the first steps out of lockdown?”

Prof Whitty said it would depend on whether she has a “significant medical problem in a way that means she has to be shielding and she’s an older person”.

“If she’s in a group that’s vulnerable, then the answer is it might well be prudent – and this will depend entirely on individual circumstances – for her not to get into a situation where she’s putting herself at risk,” he continued.

He gave a speech on the steps of Downing Street on Monday morning, thanking the public for complying with lockdown and urging people to stick with the measures for the time being.

Matt Hancock was speaking alongside CMO Chris Whitty and Stephen Powis, the medical director for England. Credit: 10 Downing Street

Despite returning to work around a month after contracting coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not make an appearance at the press conference.

Mr Johnson claimed the UK is "beginning to turn the tide" on coronavirus but said a relaxation of lockdown would "risk a second major outbreak".

On his return to work following his treatment for Covid-19, a virus he described as an "invisible mugger", the prime minister said social distancing was working, but said now is the "moment of maximum risk".

Speaking from outside Downing Street, where he had not been seen in public since being taken to hospital on April 5, Mr Johnson said the UK is "coming to the end of the first phase of the conflict".

He encouraged people to "contain your impatience" with lockdown, by sticking with restrictions, but his speech was short of detail explaining just how measures may eventually be eased.