UK

Coronavirus: UK holds minute's silence for key workers who died

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Media captionUK holds a minutes silence for coronavirus key worker deaths

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.

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

Intisar Chowdhury, 18, 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".

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 "listening to the voices on the front line is a very, very important part of how we improve".

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Image caption Staff observe the minute's silence outside Salford Royal Hospital
Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined the silence with Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill and Chancellor Rishi Sunak

At 11:00, people across the country paused to join the minute's silence. Dame Donna Kinnair, head of the Royal College of Nursing, said she was "heartened to hear how many people took part".

In Northern Ireland, assembly members halted business to observe the silence, in Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford and other Welsh ministers were among those paying respects in Wales, and in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led the tribute in Edinburgh.

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 114 health workers have died with the virus across the UK. It is not known where they contracted Covid-19.

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Image caption Transport for London said the underground and bus network would be brought to a halt for the silence
Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Staff outside Salford Royal Hospital reacted to the moving silence
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Image caption A veteran joins the silence outside Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
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Image caption NHS staff at the Mater Infirmorum Hospital in Belfast stood 2m apart to follow distancing rules

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.

Across the whole of the UK there were 24,686 deaths registered in the week after Easter - more than twice as many 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.

BBC head of statistics Robert Cuffe said the data "showed the epidemic certainly hasn't reached its peak in care homes".

Meanwhile, it comes as 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.

'Tremendous debt'

The Archbishop of York John Sentanu was among those inviting people to take part in the minute's silence - which coincided 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 ensured 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.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer - who also joined the silence - 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.

Image copyright Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust
Image caption 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.

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 the NHS was resuming treatments that were suspended in preparation for the coronavirus outbreak - cancer care and mental health support were being prioritised
  • MPs heard a phone app designed to help contain the spread of Covid-19 when lockdown measures are eased is "two to three weeks" away from being rolled out
  • Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he has told councils to plan the "organised reopening" of household waste collection sites

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