Some 20,000 former NHS staff have returned to work to help the fight against coronavirus, Boris Johnson has revealed in a video posted online.
The prime minister, who is self-isolating after testing positive for the virus, said the country would get through the crisis “together”.
It comes after England’s deputy chief medical officer said it could be six months before life in the UK returns to “normal”.
The UK death toll has reached 1,228.
Among those to have died with the virus is Amged El-Hawrani, a 55-year-old doctor and ear, nose and throat trainer at Queen’s Hospital Burton.
And last week an organ transplant consultant died after testing positive for the virus.
In the video, which the prime minister posted on Twitter, Mr Johnson chose to contradict his Conservative predecessor Margaret Thatcher’s view that “there is no such thing as society”.
Thanking the doctors, nurses and other former professionals who have returned to the NHS, as well as the 750,000 members of the public who have volunteered to help the country through the pandemic, he said: “We are going to do it, we are going to do it together.
“One thing I think the coronavirus crisis has already proved is that there really is such a thing as society.”
Mr Johnson said the public appeared to be obeying the restrictions set out by government to slow the spread of the virus, adding that train use was down 95% and bus use down 75%.
The prime minister has continued to lead the country’s response to the pandemic while self-isolating in his Downing Street flat.
In other developments:
- A breathing aid that can help keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care has been created in under a week by University College London engineers working alongside clinicians and Mercedes Formula One
- Thousands of EasyJet and Virgin airline staff are being offered work in the new NHS Nightingale Hospital, which is being set up at the ExCel Centre in east London
- The boss of the UK’s largest regional airline, Loganair, has said his firm plans to ask for government help to get through the pandemic
- A rapid response unit within the Cabinet Office is working with social media firms to remove misinformation about coronavirus
- Social distancing restrictions will be extended across the US until at least 30 April, President Trump has said
On Sunday, England’s deputy chief medical officer said the government would review the lockdown measures for the first time in three weeks’ time.
But Dr Jenny Harries warned the public: “We must not then suddenly revert to our normal way of living.”
She said that would be “quite dangerous” and could risk a “second peak” of the virus.
Dr Harries said this did not mean the country would not be in “complete lockdown” for half a year.
Instead, she said social distancing measures would be reviewed every three weeks and reduced gradually over a period of around three to six months.
However, Dr Harries said it was “plausible” restrictions could continue for longer.
Speaking alongside Dr Harries at Sunday’s news conference, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the UK was on “emergency footing” in a way “unprecedented” in peacetime.
Following concerns over shortages of personal protective equipment for frontline NHS staff, Mr Jenrick said there was now a “national supply distribution response team” to deliver PPE to those in need, supported by the Armed Forces and other emergency services.
And he said the first 50,000 food parcels would be sent out this week to the most vulnerable people in at-risk groups, who are being told to stay at home for 12 weeks to protect them from the virus.