The UK’s health minister Matt Hancock announced the new scheme on Tuesday, appealing for the recruitment of 250,000 volunteers to support vulnerable people who are unable to leave their homes due to the pandemic.
“We are seeking a quarter of a million volunteers, people in good health, to help the NHS, for shopping, for delivery of medicines, and to support those who are shielded to protect their own health,” Hancock told reporters.
The “NHS Volunteer Responders” will be asked to help local services and the NHS by carrying out tasks such as driving patients to and from hospital appointments, delivering shopping and medicines from pharmacies to vulnerable people, and phoning people isolating at home to check up on them.
The system aims to reach up to 1.5 million people who are “shielding”—self-isolating at home for 12 weeks under government advice to protect those with serious health conditions.
By Wednesday morning, some 170,000 people had already signed up for the volunteer scheme on the NHS website, National Medical Director of NHS England, Professor Stephen Powis, told BBC Breakfast.
The government has already called for thousands of final-year medical students and retired doctors and nurses to offer their help in hospitals across the UK.
Hancock said Tuesday that as many as 11,788 had responded to say they will return to the NHS to assist, including 2,660 doctors, 6,147 nurses, and 2,500 pharmacists and other staff. He added that some 18,700 final-year student nurses and 5,500 final-year medical students will “move to the frontline” next week to help combat the CCP virus.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.
“I pay tribute to each and every one of those who is returning to the NHS at its hour of need,” Hancock said.
The health minister urged those “well and able to do so safely,” to sign up for the new scheme.
“I would urge you to sign up today to help the most vulnerable people in our communities as an NHS Volunteer Responder,” Hancock said in a statement.
The appeal came a day after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a total lockdown, following in the footsteps of neighboring nations in Europe.
Johnson has previously held off from adopting the more stringent restrictions on freedom seen in much of Europe.
The nation saw its biggest rise in deaths in 24 hours Tuesday. As of Wednesday morning, confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom rose to 8,164, with at least 423 deaths, according to official government data collated by Johns Hopkins University.
Reuters contributed to this report.