/UK holds minutes silence for fallen key workers

UK holds minutes silence for fallen key workers

Image showing the faces of some of those who died

A minute’s silence has been held across the UK to commemorate the key workers who have died with coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned to work on Monday, joined the tribute at 11:00 BST.

More than 100 NHS and care staff have died with the virus, as have many transport and other key workers.

It comes as the son of a doctor who died called on the government to issue a public apology for issues with personal protective equipment (PPE).

Intisar Chowdhury told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he wanted ministers “to accept their mistakes and let their mistakes become improvement rather than just ignore them and completely move on”.

The 18-year-old also asked the government to make private apologies to the families of health and care workers affected.

Intisar’s father, Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, 53, who died earlier this month, had warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson about a lack of PPE five days before being hospitalised.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was also asked by Mr Chowdhury to apologise on LBC, and said: “I think that it is very important that we’re constantly learning about how to do these things better and I think listening to the voices on the front line is a very, very important part of how we improve.”

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Golam Rahat Khan/PA Media

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Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury worked at Homerton University Hospital in east London

A BBC Panorama investigation found the government failed to buy enough PPE to cope with a pandemic.

There were no gowns, visors, swabs or body bags in the government’s pandemic stockpile when Covid-19 reached the UK, the programme reported.

Government minister Victoria Atkins told BBC Breakfast she was “very, very sorry to hear” of the Panorama report.

“Like every other country in the world, [the virus] is unprecedented and the requirements for PPE have risen exponentially and we’re doing our absolute best to address those needs and will continue to do so,” she said.

She added that, since the outbreak began, “a billion pieces of PPE” have been distributed across the UK.

Care home deaths rising

The latest daily figures on Monday show a further 360 people died with the virus in UK hospitals, taking the total number of deaths to 21,092.

This number includes 82 NHS staff and 16 care workers who were confirmed to have died in hospital in England. A separate BBC News analysis of published figures found that at least 113 health workers have died with the virus across the UK.

Latest statistics released on Tuesday from the Office for National Statistics – which count all deaths, not just those in hospitals – found the number of people who died in England and Wales hit a record high in the week ending 17 April. More than 22,000 people died – the highest since records began in 1993.

Meanwhile across the whole of the UK, there were 24,686 deaths registered in the UK in the week after Easter – more than twice as high as normal.

The rise is partly driven by an increasing number of deaths in care homes, which accounted for a third of all deaths. The figures show deaths in care homes were continuing to rise, compared with the number of deaths in hospitals which appears to have peaked and is coming down.

The BBC’s head of statistics, Robert Cuffe, said the data “showed the epidemic certainly hasn’t reached its peak in care homes”.

‘Tremendous debt’

The Archbishop of York John Sentanu was among those inviting people to take part in the minute’s silence for health care workers who have died – which coincides with International Workers Memorial Day.

“Workers should not be sent into danger without the correct PPE,” he said and called for those on the front line to be “given all the safety equipment they need”.

NHS England medical director Stephen Powis said the silence would ensure the health workers’ “contribution is remembered and appreciated”.

Chief nursing officer Ruth May added: “Every death is a tragedy but we feel the loss of fellow health and care workers particularly keenly.”

A flag was flown at half mast at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which was among many medical venues around the country where staff will pause to pay their respects to their colleagues.

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the minute’s silence would “bring together a sombre but grateful nation”.

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Margaret Tapley’s grandson said she dedicated her life to the NHS after she died with the virus

She added: “This must not be the last time that sacrifice is recognised. The country and its leaders owe a tremendous debt to these key workers and the many more who are on shift again today.”

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said too many front-line workers had lost their lives, adding: “We owe it to them to make sure they’ve got the right equipment, in the right place, at the right time.”

On Monday, the government announced that families of front-line NHS and social care staff who died with the virus in England would receive a £60,000 compensation payment.

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Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust

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Cheryl Williams, a ward housekeeper, was “a lynchpin of the care, comfort, and compassion”, North Middlesex University Hospital said

Prerana Issar, NHS chief people officer, said that NHS England was considering how to formally commemorate all those who had died while working to care for others once the health service was through the peak of the virus.

Transport for London said the underground and bus network would be brought to a halt for the silence as the workforce honoured its colleagues, with passengers being asked to join in.

In other developments:

  • Home test kits for essential workers have run out for the day on the government’s website. Many essential workers have found that tests are no longer available
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock said treatments including cancer care and mental health support were being prioritised
  • There has been a rise in the number of people applying to work for the NHS, with 407,000 applications submitted last month – an increase of 13,500 on the same month last year
  • Ministers are facing competing demands from councils across England for a £1.6bn emergency coronavirus fund
  • The number of prisoners believed to have been infected with coronavirus may be up to six times as many as the published figure, according to a Public Health England report
  • Millions of furloughed workers are being offered free online courses in digital skills by the Department for Education
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