More than 500,000 people sign up to be NHS volunteersNachelle Geronimo
More than 500,000 people sign up to be NHS volunteers.
NHS surpasses target of 250,000 to help vulnerable during coronavirus crisis
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More than 500,000 volunteers have signed up to support the NHS in helping vulnerable people who have been told not to leave their homes during the coronavirus crisis.
Nearly five people per second enlisted in the government’s new volunteering scheme in the hours after the health secretary, Matt Hancock, launched a call on Tuesday for 250,000 people in England to help bolster the NHS response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Overnight the number of volunteers who had pledged support topped 170,000, and as the day went on the target was smashed. “That is already, in one day, as many people as the population of Coventry,” said Boris Johnson in the daily Downing Street press conference. The figure now stands at 504,303.
The overwhelming response has prompted the NHS to extend its target to recruit 750,000 volunteers in total. Those volunteers who have already signed up will start next week.
As the coronavirus death toll in the UK rose to 422 people as of 10.10am on Wednesday, the government called on fit and healthy adults to deliver vital supplies such as food and medicines to up to 1.5 million vulnerable people, drive them home after being discharged from hospital and make regular phone calls to those in self-isolation.
Nearly 12,000 recently retired NHS staff came forward to rejoin the frontline following a separate call for help. The government has announced plans to set up a makeshift hospital with capacity for 4,000 beds at the ExCeL centre in east London.
Announcing on Wednesday morning that the government’s volunteering scheme was two-thirds of the way to reaching its target just 15 hours after it was set in motion, NHS England’s national medical director, Stephen Powis, said he was “bowled over” by the “astonishing” response.
“Yesterday we sent out a call to arms for an army of NHS volunteers, looking for a quarter of a million volunteers, and I can say that overnight we’ve already had 170,000 people sign up … It’s an absolutely astonishing response,” he told BBC Breakfast.
Asked if he had expected such support, he replied: “I think at times of crisis, people come together. And the vast majority of people in this country are doing what the government has asked us all to do. But it’s important that everyone does that as that will save lives.
“I know there’s vast numbers of people looking to help neighbours, vulnerable people who live close by, so no it doesn’t surprise me at all. In times like this, as the chief medical officer has already said, we see outbreaks of altruism, people wanting to help, so it’s a wonderful response in the same way that all those doctors coming back, nurses coming back. I’m bowled over by it.”
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