Health secretary Matt Hancock has revealed two nurses and two healthcare assistants have died of Covid-19 as the ‘grim march’ against coronavirus goes on.
Mr Hancock – who was speaking at the Government’s daily coronavirus briefing – also said the UK was carrying out ‘world-leading’ clinical trials to fight against the virus.
But the health secretary did confirm 2,500 critical care beds had been created to help tackle the spread of Covid-19 – including those at the newly opened Nightingale hospital in London.
He added: “We are reminded again today that for the NHS this truly is the frontline.
“In the last 24 hours, two nurses and two healthcare assistants have tragically died fighting coronavirus.
“Every life lost to this dreadful disease makes me more determined than ever to push for victory.”
Mr Hancock said he wanted to thank everyone who has stayed at home as they are “giving the NHS the time to expand so that it can save lives”.
After confirming the plans for further Nightingale hospitals, Mr Hancock said: “Since the start of this crisis, we’ve boosted the number of critical care beds to care for coronavirus by over 2,500.
“That’s before the addition we’ll get from the Nightingale hospitals.”
On PPE, Mr Hancock said more than 26 million products were delivered to 281 different organisations on Thursday.
He added he has agreed with the Northern Ireland Executive to “immediately” provide five million items of PPE to meet their needs.
“Over 7,000 NHS staff have been tested,” Mr Hancock also said.
Chief nursing officer Ruth May has paid tribute to medics who have died after contracting coronavirus, adding “I worry that there is going to be more”.
Mr Hancock said research on treatment for Covid-19 was “essential to our plan” for tackling the epidemic and announced the UK was carrying out world-leading trials.
“We are bringing together some of the finest research minds in the country to design new trials and we’re delivering them at record pace,” he said.
“We have established three national clinical trials covering each major stage of the disease – primary care, hospital care and critical care for the most seriously ill.
“Just like the Nightingale hospital, one of these was put together in just nine days which is breathtaking speed.
“These trials are looking at the effectiveness of existing drugs and steroids, re-purposed for treatment for Covid-19.
“One of the trials, which is called recovery and deals in hospital care, is the largest of its kind in the world, with 926 patients involved.”
Mr Hancock said more patients were needed to volunteer to take part in the trials, saying the “bigger the trials, the better the data and the faster we can roll out the treatments”.