UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks and takes questions during a press conference in Downing Street regarding the coronavirus outbreak, on March 9, 2020. in London, England.
Alberto Pezzali – WPA Pool | Getty Images
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday that 405,000 volunteers had signed up to help the National Health Service (NHS) cope with the coronavirus outbreak.
It follows an appeal announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Tuesday for 250,000 people “in good health” to help the NHS deal with the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
“When we launched the appeal we hoped to get 250,000 volunteers,” Johnson said at a daily press conference on the coronavirus. “In just 24 hours 405,000 people have responded to the call.”
The death toll of the coronavirus in Britain now stands at 422, according to the country’s health department, while a total of 8,077 have tested positive for the disease.
Like many other countries, Britain has enforced a nationwide lockdown.
People have been told to stay at home, with the exception of shopping for essential supplies, exercising once a day, going out for medical needs and traveling to work where necessary.
Nonessential public buildings, from gyms to places of worship, have also been ordered to close, while social events like weddings and baptisms — but not funerals — must be stopped.
‘Global shortage’ of testing kits
Scaling up the number of tests in the U.K. was a key theme of Wednesday’s press conference. Johnson said the government wants to roll out more as soon as possible, adding that it is “massively ramping up” testing programs.
Standing alongside the prime minister, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said that, as more testing kits become available, the priority is to send them to NHS staff and critical workers who are self-isolating.
The main “bottleneck” for delivering more tests, he said, was a “global shortage.” Whitty also cautioned these testing kits were not something people would “suddenly be ordering on the internet next week.”
Earlier Wednesday, the household of Prince Charles, who is next in line for the British throne, confirmed he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Buckingham Palace said the Duke of Wales last saw his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, briefly on March 12, but added she “remains in good health.”
Neil Ferguson, a top epidemiologist who has advised the government, said Wednesday that intensive care demand would peak in up to three weeks’ time if the country’s strategy works.