Coronavirus: More than 300 NHS and care workers have now died from Covid-19, PM announces

Thoughts with families and friends, Mr Johnson says

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Wednesday 20 May 2020 13:34 BST
Boris Johnson says finding a vaccine is not guaranteed and we may be stuck with the illness for years to come

The deaths of more than 300 heath and care workers have been linked to Covid-19, Boris Johnson has announced – an increase of 37 NHS staff in the past week.

Speaking at prime minister’s questions, Mr Johnson told MPs the victims include 181 NHS staff and 131 social care workers, adding: “I know the thoughts of the whole House are with their families and friends.’’

But Mr Johnson came under pressure from Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, over the government’s attitude to care home staff.

Ministers have come under increasing pressure over their handling of care homes, following accusations they were not adequately protected as the pandemic hit.

Mr Johnson said that 125,000 care home staff have already been tested for Covid-19 and that ministers are “absolutely confident that we will be able to increase our testing not just in care homes but across the whole of the community”.

The UK’s coronavirus death toll currently stands at 35,341, according to government figures – although data from the Office for National Statistics indicates the true death toll is around 55,000.

The comments came as the prime minister promised a testing and tracing system, seen as key to easing the lockdown, would be in place by 1 June.

Mr Johnson told MPs that by the bginning of next month, the government will have recruited 25,000 staff capable of tracing the contacts of up to 10,000 new Covid-19 cases a day.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The number of Covid-19 deaths in Germany stands at around 8,000, in South Korea it is under 300, in contrast, the United Kingdom, despite two million tests having been carried out – there has been no effective tracing in place since March 12 when tracing was abandoned.

“That is nearly 10 weeks in a critical period without effective tracing. That is a huge hole in our defences, isn’t it prime minister?”

The prime minister accused Sir Keir of “feigning ignorance” on the figures, to which he responded: ”This is the last PMQs for two weeks, can the prime minister indicate that an effective test, trace and isolate system will be in place by 1 June, Monday week?”

Mr Johnson replied: “What he heard is that we have growing confidence that we will have a test, track and trace operation that will be world-beating and yes, it will be in place, it will be in place by 1 June.”

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