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26 March 2020 00:32

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More than 500,000 volunteers have signed up to support the NHS in helping vulnerable people who have been told not to leave their homes during the coronavirus crisis. Nearly five people per second enlisted in the government's new volunteering scheme in the hours after the health secretary, Matt Hancock, launched a call on Tuesday for 250,000 people in England to help bolster the NHS response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Play Video 1:10 Boris Johnson: 405,000 NHS volunteers signed up in 24 hours – video Overnight the number of volunteers who had pledged support topped 170,000, and as the day went on the target was smashed. "That is already, in one day, as many people as the population of Coventry," said Boris Johnson in the daily Downing Street press conference. The figure now stands at 504,303.

Which conditions mean that you should isolate for 12 weeks? Read more The overwhelming response has prompted the NHS to extend its target to recruit 750,000 volunteers in total. Those volunteers who have already signed up will start next week. As the coronavirus death toll in the UK rose to 422 people as of 10.10am on Wednesday, the government called on fit and healthy adults to deliver vital supplies such as food and medicines to up to 1.5 million vulnerable people, drive them home after being discharged from hospital and make regular phone calls to those in self-isolation. Nearly 12,000 recently retired NHS staff came forward to rejoin the frontline following a separate call for help.

The government has announced plans to set up a makeshift hospital with capacity for 4,000 beds at the ExCeL centre in east London. Announcing on Wednesday morning that the government's volunteering scheme was two-thirds of the way to reaching its target just 15 hours after it was set in motion, NHS England's national medical director, Stephen Powis, said he was "bowled over" by the "astonishing" response. "Yesterday we sent out a call to arms for an army of NHS volunteers, looking for a quarter of a million volunteers, and I can say that overnight we've already had 170,000 people sign up... It's an absolutely astonishing response," he told BBC Breakfast. Play Video 2:10 How do I know if I have coronavirus and what happens next? – video explainer Asked if he had expected such support, he replied: "I think at times of crisis, people come together. And the vast majority of people in this country are doing what the government has asked us all to do. But it's important that everyone does that as that will save lives. "I know there's vast numbers of people looking to help neighbours, vulnerable people who live close by, so no it doesn't surprise me at all. In times like this, as the chief medical officer has already said, we see outbreaks of altruism, people wanting to help, so it's a wonderful response in the same way that all those doctors coming back, nurses coming back. I'm bowled over by it." Quick guide UK lockdown: what are the new coronavirus restrictions? Show Hide What do the new restrictions involve? People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes: Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will: Close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed. People can join the scheme in four different roles, including as a community response volunteer, which involves "collecting shopping, medication or other essential supplies for someone who is self-isolating, and delivering these supplies to their home". Patient transport volunteers will support the NHS by driving discharged patients to their homes, and NHS transport volunteers will move equipment, supplies or medication between sites. Other volunteers will provide support calls to elderly people who are in isolation and at risk of loneliness. Volunteers, who must be over 18, fit and healthy and able to pass an enhanced DBS check, will be directed to tasks via a responder app that they can switch to say they are "on duty" when available. Robert Jenrick, the housing and communities secretary, told BBC Breakfast: "I know there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people out there who would like to support us during this time and support the NHS. "There will be lots of different opportunities available from helping deliver medicines and food to the elderly and vulnerable who we're asking to stay at home, being volunteer drivers to get supplies to the frontline or to take people into hospital, or working in hospitals obviously in non-clinical roles." Asked if the scheme went against advice to stay at home and how the government would keep volunteers safe, Jenrick said: "The government's guidance is to stay at home unless you've got a reason to be going out. If you're doing something absolutely essential for fighting the virus, like volunteering in this very organised way, then obviously that's different. But we want to keep those individuals safe, they'll receive the training, the support and the equipment that they'll need to carry out those roles." More than 170,000 people have already signed up to work for the NHS volunteer scheme (Picture: Metro.co.uk) More than 170,000 people have already signed up to work for the NHS volunteer scheme amid the coronavirus pandemic. The government called for an army of 250,000 volunteers on Tuesday as the NHS struggles to cope with the rising number of Covid-19 cases. Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the ideal candidates as being 'people in good health', whose roles would include 'shopping, the delivery of medicines and support for those who are shielding to protect their own health'. National Medical Director of NHS England, Professor Stephen Powis, announced on BBC Breakfast this morning that already 170,000 people have filled out forms – equating to roughly 189 people a minute. Anyone wishing to sign-up as a volunteer can register online by visiting the NHS website, where they will need to fill out a form. Successful candidates will then be given login details for the 'GoodSAM' Responder app. Health Secretary Matt Hancock issued a call for volunteers on Tuesday (Picture: Metro.co.uk/ Rex) The app works by asking volunteers to mark themselves as 'on duty' when they are available to help with tasks in their area. The majority of tasks can be undertaken while social distancing and volunteers will receive guidance through a 'getting started pack'. Advertisement Volunteers must be 18 or over and have no coronavirus symptoms. Those in higher-risk groups, including those who are over the age of 70, pregnant or have underlying medical conditions, are able to offer support by telephone. If any applicants do become ill, they can pause their volunteering. As of Tuesday, the UK death toll from Covid-19 stands at 424, after a further 89 people died – the biggest daily rise in numbers the country has seen so-far. There are 8,077 confirmed cases of the virus in the nation, up 1,427 from 6,650 on Monday. More than 35,000 extra NHS staff will be joining the fight against the virus(Picture: AFP) Hancock also revealed that more than 35,000 extra NHS staff would be joining the fight against the virus, including retired doctors and nurses returning to the service and final year students starting their careers. Already, 11,788 recently retired NHS staff have responded to the call to return to the service, Hancock said. They include 2,660 doctors, more than 2,500 pharmacists and other staff and 6,147 nurses. Some 5,500 final-year medics and 18,700 final-year student nurses are then expected to 'move to the frontline' next week. The new measure has led to calls or student debt for those on medical courses to be cancelled. Hancock also confirmed a new temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale hospital – would be opening at London's Excel centre.