Nineteen NHS workers have died after contracting coronavirus, Matt Hancock confirms

11 April 2020, 09:38

19 NHS workers have now died after contracting Covid-19
19 NHS workers have now died after contracting Covid-19. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A total of 19 NHS workers have now died after testing positive for coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.

The secretary of state said he found it "really upsetting" that people were coming from across the world to give their lives to the service in the battle against coronavirus.

It remains unclear whether the workers contracted the deadly illness while at work or in their everyday lives.

Mr Hancock offered his thoughts to the relatives of those who died.

"My heart goes out to their families, these are people who have put themselves on the front line," he said.

"The work is going on to establish whether they caught coronavirus in the line of duty while at work or whether, like so many other people, caught it in the rest of their lives.

"It is obviously quite difficult to work that out."

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The health secretary said the country must pay tribute to their service and those who have died will have their "enormous contribution" recognised.

He added: "I'm particularly struck at the high proportion of people from minority ethnic backgrounds and people who have come to this country to work in the NHS who have died of coronavirus.

"I find it really upsetting actually and it is a testament to the fact that people who have come from all over the world have come and given their lives in service to the NHS and paid for that with their lives."

He then said it was too early to tell whether the UK had reached its peak number of infections.

"The good news is we have seen the number of hospital admissions starting - starting, I stress - to flatten out," Mr Hancock said.

"You can see (from the Government's charts) that instead of going up exponentially, as they would have done if we had not taken the measures, that they are starting to come down and flatten."

Matt Hancock said NHS staff who have died will be recognised for their contribution
Matt Hancock said NHS staff who have died will be recognised for their contribution. Picture: PA

However, he added that the government had not yet seen enough evidence of a drop in the numbers to have the confidence to make changes to lockdown measures.

"The answer to your question, about have we reached the peak, is nobody knows," he added.

Asked about the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, saying the UK was two weeks away from the peak, he said: "Our judgment is that we are not there yet and that we haven't seen a flattening enough to be able to say that we have reached the peak."

Mr Hancock also said he did not blame any health workers who had used more PPE than was "strictly necessary" given the tough circumstances they faced.

"I don't want to impugn blame on people who have used more PPE than the guidelines suggest because I understand the difficulties in the circumstances," he said.

"What I would say it is very important to use the right PPE and not overuse it."

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On Thursday, the health secretary confirmed that the UK now has the capacity to test all key NHS staff and social care staff.

He added that 15 testing drive-through centres had been opened across the UK to enable more testing for frontline staff.

"I can announce today that we have capacity for all key social care staff and NHS staff who need to be tested to get those tests," he told Friday's daily briefing.

Mr Hancock said that two more "Lighthouse mega-labs" were on track in Cheshire and Glasgow, after he opened the first one in Milton Keynes on Thursday.

He added that AstraZeneca and GSK were also opening another testing facility in Cambridge.