Foreign healthcare worker visas extended for another six months for free

20 November 2020, 07:34

Priti Patel said the Government recognises the 'huge contribution' healthcare workers from overseas make
Priti Patel said the Government recognises the 'huge contribution' healthcare workers from overseas make. Picture: PA

The visas of healthcare professionals and their family members have been extended for another six months free of charge to help fight Covid.

The Home Office estimated that more than 6,000 doctors, nurses, paramedics, midwives, occupational therapists, psychologists and allied professionals would benefit from the offer.

At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the Home Office offered free visa extensions for health professionals whose visas were due to expire between March 31 and October 1.

The latest decision extends that offer from October 1 to March 31 2021.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "We recognise the huge contribution healthcare professionals from overseas are making across the UK in fighting the devastating impact of coronavirus.

“We truly value the work these heroes are doing, which is why we’re renewing our free 12-month visa extension offer.

“We estimate this will benefit a further 6,000 dedicated frontline workers and their families who deserve our support and our gratitude.”

Read more: WHO suggests swapping Xmas dinner for Covid-friendly 'picnic in the park'

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am hugely grateful for all of the frontline health and social care workers from overseas who have worked tirelessly to save lives and provide the best possible care during this global pandemic.

“This visa extension will help to benefit healthcare professionals who have shown extraordinary dedication during this challenging period to protect all of us and our families from the threat of the virus.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, head of the British Medical Association, said: "Our international colleagues have worked tirelessly and selflessly during the pandemic, providing care and support as we all faced unprecedented challenges.

"This often came at the expense of their own health and wellbeing, and as we know, in too many cases, we have seen staff who came from overseas to look after people in this country tragically lose their own lives to COVID-19.

"We owe this vital group of staff a huge debt of gratitude and they should never have had to worry about their immigration status as they fought this virus on the frontline."

Coronavirus rates are levelling out and may be starting to drop.

Read more: Northern Ireland to extend lockdown weeks before Christmas

The Government reported a further 501 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Thursday, bringing the UK death total to 53,775, while there have also been a further 22,915 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

It was the second day in a row that the number of deaths had dropped, having fallen from 598 on Tuesday to 529 on Wednesday.

Downing Street has suggested families should be able to meet up after a "difficult year" and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday a final decision will be made as close to the end of England's national lockdown as possible.

Reports suggest households might be allowed to mix indoors for a five-day period from Christmas Eve, and that ministers are considering plans to allow three or four households to form bubbles.

However, a five-day easing could mean a potential 25-day period of tighter measures into January if the Government was to follow advice from scientists.

It comes as two vaccines are expected to be rolled out before the new year and Oxford University published phase 2 results from its clinical trial into a coronavirus vaccine, showing it produces a strong immune response in older age groups.

Professor Andrew Pollard, head of Oxford's vaccine trial team, said he was "absolutely delighted" with the results and the jab was "well tolerated" in older people.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) also reported that NHS England has told local leaders that each of the 42 health and care systems in England should have at least one mass vaccination site, while larger systems could have two.

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