With some doctors saying they felt like "cannon fodder", the
government said the military would help ship millions of items of
personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks to healthcare
workers who have complained of shortages.
So far, 281 Britons have died from coronavirus and, in the last few
days, British authorities have rapidly stepped up action to try to
limit the spread of the disease and prevent a repeat of the death
toll seen in other countries where thousands have died.
However, there have been complaints from frontline medical staff
about shortages of kit, saying they did not feel safe at work. In a
letter pleading with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to increase PPE
supplies, more than 6,000 frontline doctors said they were being
asked to put their lives at risk with out-of-date masks, and low
stocks of equipment.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted there had been issues but
promised action was being taken. He said the army would drive trucks
throughout the day and night to get supplies to medical staff.
"It's like a war effort, it is a war against this virus and so the
army have been incredibly helpful in getting those logistics so we
can get the supplies to protect people on the front line," he told
the BBC, saying the health service now had 12,000 ventilators, 7,000
more than at the start of the crisis.
Britain has brought in a series of measures to try to curb the
spread of the virus.
On Monday, a much-reduced rail service was introduced and jury
trials were suspended, coming days after Johnson advised Britons to
work from home if possible and ordered the closure of pubs, gyms and
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But advice to stay at home and avoid social gatherings went unheeded by millions
at the weekend who took advantage of sunny weather to flocked to parks and
beauty spots over the weekend, ignoring instructions to stay 2 meters (6 feet)
Emyr Williams, chief executive of the Snowdonia National Park Authority in
Wales, said the past 24 hours had been unprecedented.
"We have experienced the busiest visitor day in living memory. The area has been
overwhelmed with visitors," he said.
The government warned that Britain would face a shutdown with curfews and travel
restrictions if people continued to flout the advice.
"Well, we're perfectly prepared to do that if we need to because the objective
here is really clear which is to stop the spread of the virus. Of course we will
enforce and bring in further strong measures if we need to," Hancock told Sky
The government was also pondering whether to close all non-essential retail
shops, the BBC's political editor reported.
Some firms have already acted because of slowing demand, with clothing retailer
Primark and department store John Lewis saying on Monday they would temporarily
close all of their shops.
It comes as Britain opened the first part of a 330 billion pound ($384 billion)
loan guarantee scheme for businesses , which will help small and medium-sized
firms borrow up to 5 million pounds to deal with coronavirus stoppages.
(Additional reporting by Costas Pitas and David Milliken; Writing by Michael
Holden; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Alison Williams)
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