Coronavirus: 19 members of ‘NHS family’ have now died, says health secretary

Announcement comes after UK records worst total daily death toll from coronavirus 

Maya Oppenheim
Saturday 11 April 2020 09:19 BST
Hancock gives death toll update and claims enough capacity to test NHS staff

The health secretary has announced that 19 NHS workers have died from coronavirus as the pandemic continues to escalate.

Matt Hancock said work was being carried out to assess whether the NHS staff came into contact with the virus while fighting the crisis on the front lines or outside of the workplace.

The announcement comes after the trade union for doctors warned personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies in London and Yorkshire are at “dangerously low levels”.​​

Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: “Very sadly, 19 members of the NHS family have died. My heart goes out to their families. These are people who have put themselves on the front line.

“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 [while going about] the rest of their lives. It is obviously quite difficult to work that out.”

Mr Hancock, who has recently recovered from the virus, 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.”

The warning comes after the UK recorded its worst daily death toll from the coronavirus outbreak – with a record increase of 980 on the previous day.

This figure, which refers to those who died in UK hospitals in the space of just 24 hours, is a higher daily fatality rate than Spain or Italy has recorded. It increases the total UK death rate to 8,958.​

Dame Donna Kinnair, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said nurses are telling her every day they do not have adequate amounts of PPE which includes essential items such as hand sanitiser, gloves, aprons, and face masks.

A consultant who warned Boris Johnson about the need for more PPE to keep NHS staff safe amid the coronavirus emergency also died from the virus.

Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a 53-year-old urologist who worked at Homerton Hospital in Hackney, east London, begged the prime minister to “ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) for each and every NHS worker” in a Facebook post last month.

Mr Chowdhury, who has been hailed a “hero”, suffered from no underlying health conditions. The consultant, who died after spending 15 days in hospital in Romford, told Mr Johnson that healthcare staff have a “human right like others to live in this world disease-free with our family and children”.

Mr Johnson has been facing mounting pressure to tackle the failure to get sufficient amounts of PPE to frontline workers battling against the coronavirus outbreak.

Some 3,963 doctors warned they were “putting their lives on the line every day” due to being denied sufficient protective gear in an open letter in The Sunday Times.

“Intensive care doctors and anaesthetists have told us they have been carrying out the highest-risk procedure, putting a patient on a ventilator, with masks that expired in 2015,” the letter, which was published at the end of March, said.

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