As the coronavirus death toll in the UK rose to 422 people as of Wednesday, the UK government called on fit and healthy adults to deliver vital supplies such as food and medicines to up to 1.5 million vulnerable people, drive them home after being discharged from hospital and make regular phone calls to those in self-isolation.
Overnight the number of British volunteers who had pledged support topped 170,000, and as the day went on the target was smashed. “That is already, in one day, as many people as the population of Coventry,” said Boris Johnson in the daily Downing Street press conference. Announcing on Wednesday morning that the government’s volunteering scheme was two-thirds of the way to reaching its target just 15 hours after it was set in motion, NHS England’s national medical director, Stephen Powis, said he was “bowled over” by the “astonishing” response.
“Yesterday we sent out a call to arms for an army of NHS volunteers, looking for a quarter of a million volunteers, and I can say that overnight we’ve already had 170,000 people sign up … It’s an absolutely astonishing response,” he told BBC Breakfast.
The overwhelming response has prompted the NHS to extend its target to recruit 750,000 volunteers in total. Those volunteers who have already signed up will start next week. The figure already today stands at 504,303.
In addition, 12,000 recently retired NHS staff came forward to rejoin the frontline following a separate call for help. The government has announced plans to set up a makeshift hospital with a capacity for 4000 beds, in east London.
The difference with the US is that the British love, and feel they own, their health service, support it fiercely and want to help it triumph over the virus and help the old and the sick. Prime Minister Johnson is not a personal favorite, perhaps, but on this case he is leading.
The spirit is Epicurean, even if the participants have barely heard of him! Bravo!