UK government puts all parts of the country on 'emergency footing' as Covid-19 pandemic intensifies

David Child
10 Downing Street handout photo of Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick answering questions from the media via a video link during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). PA Media: PA Media

The Government has put all parts of the UK on an "emergency footing" as it battles with the coronavirus pandemic, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said.

Speaking at the daily Government Covid-19 press briefing on Sunday, Mr Jenrick said the move comes as part of "unprecedented" peace time measures and are unlike anything implemented by a British administration "since the Second World War".

"This means that we are establishing strategic coordination centres across the whole country," Mr Jenrick said.

The Communities Secretary said that senior members of the emergency services will be brought together with local authorities and the NHS to "lead communities through this challenging period, from Cornwall to Cumbria".

Members of the Armed Forces will be embedded in each of these groups, which will be lead by a "gold commander", Mr Jenrick confirmed.

He also told the Downing Street briefing that millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) were being delivered to NHS staff.

"We simply cannot and should not ask people to be on the frontline without the right protective equipment," he said.

He said the Government had established a "national supply distribution response team" to deliver PPE to those in need, supported by the Armed Forces and other emergency services.

Some 170 million masks and almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment are among the items being delivered to NHS trusts and healthcare settings, he said.

"All delivered to 58,000 NHS trusts and healthcare settings, including GP surgeries, pharmacies and community providers," he told the briefing.

"Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices, and home care providers have, or will shortly, receive a delivery."

The briefing came after the Department of Health confirmed the nationwide Covid-19 death toll has now reached 1,228 - an increase of 209 since Saturday and the second biggest day-on-day rise since the outbreak erupted.

Amid the mounting crisis, the Government warned the public to ready itself to remain in lockdown for a "significant period" of time as the pandemic continues to surge.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said it was unclear when the current restrictions may be able to be lifted, admitting officials were "very concerned" by the spiralling rise in coronavirus deaths.

"I can’t make an accurate prediction, but everyone does have to prepare for a significant period when these measures are still in place," Mr Gove told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme via video link on Sunday.

In other key developments:

  • Boris Johnson warned in a letter sent to every household in the UK that "things will get worse before they get better"
  • The Prime Minister reiterated people must stay at home in order to "protect the NHS and save lives"
  • Mr Gove said Covid-19 testing for NHS staff and those working in social care was the "absolute top priority" for the Government
  • He added that supermarket staff, prison officers and workers in other areas of the public sector will also be tested
  • NHS England confirmed a UK hospital worker has died after contracting coronavirus
  • Amged El-Hawrani is the first confirmed hospital frontline worker to die after testing positive for Covid-19
  • More than 750,000 people have now volunteered to help the NHS battle the coronavirus pandemic

Separately on Sunday, NHS England confirmed a first frontline healthcare worker had died after testing positive for coronavirus.

Consultant Amged El-Hawrani, 55, passed away at Leicester Royal Infirmary on Saturday evening.

Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, said: "My deepest condolences are with Amged’s family at this extremely sad time.

"The NHS is a family and we all feel deeply the loss of any of our colleagues, as we all continue to unite and work together to tackle the spread of coronavirus, I know that the whole of the NHS and the public we serve will want to extend our sympathies to the El-Hawrani family.

"Nobody can be in any doubt about the scale of the challenge we face with this virus, and Amged’s death is not just an individual human tragedy but a stark reminder to the whole country that we all must take this crisis seriously."

Mr Powis called on people to abide by the Government's "clear instructions" to "stay indoors, self-isolate, keep strictly to social distancing advice and practise good hygiene, which means washing hands more often and for longer".

"The advice issued by Government and the health service can be the difference between life and death, so this is everybody’s chance to be a lifesaver," he added.

Read more

UK 'could face up to six months before life gets back to normal'

Consultant becomes first NHS frontline worker with coronavirus to die

Half of UK coronavirus critical care patients dying, study shows