Tuesday 24 March 2020 5:36 pm

Hancock calls for 250,000 coronavirus volunteers as government readies London mega hospital

The government has called for 250,000 healthy people to become volunteers, as part of efforts to support vulnerable people during the coronavirus outbreak.

At the same time, health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed the opening of a temporary new mega-hospital at London’s Excel centre.

Leading the daily press conference from Downing Street, Hancock said the NHS Nightingale Hospital would comprise two wards, each of 2,000 people.

“With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians we will make sure that we have the capacity that we need so that everyone can get the support that they need,” he added.

The government has brought 3.5m antibody tests, which will be made available soon, while 7.5m pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) have been moved in recent days.

He also confirmed that a total of 11,788 recently retired NHS staff have responded to the call to return to the service in a bid to tackle the pandemic.

The figure includes 2,660 doctors, more than 2,500 pharmacists and other staff and 6,147 nurses. In addition 5,500 final-year medics and 18,700 final-year student nurses would “move to the frontline” next week.

Hancock said: “I pay tribute to each and every one of those who is returning to the NHS at its hour of need.”

As well as this, he announced the launch of a new NHS Volunteers scheme, designed to support the 1.5m most at-risk people who are currently having to stay at home for 12 weeks.

Hancock said the government was looking for a quarter of a million “people in good health” to help the NHS, for shopping, in delivery of medicines and to support those who are shielded to protect their own health”.

The press conference took place shortly after it was confirmed that a further 87 people had died across the UK overnight, taking the total Covid-19 related death toll to 422.