The government says 50,000 of the most vulnerable people in Britain will care packages by the end of this week.
The packages, for those most at risk whom the government has asked to shield for the next 12 weeks, will contain vital food and supplies, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said.
It came as he announced council across the country were on an “emergency footing” to ensure those shielding themselves got the support they needed ans vital public services continue.
People with a number of serious underlying conditions – including serious lung conditions – have been asked to avoid as much contact as possible with the outside world as part of Government plans to reduce fatalities.
The government confirmed that the first patch of vital packages of those people had already been delivered – with 50,000 expected to be delivered by the end of the week.
Today the death toll from Covid-19 in the UK reached 1,228 after a rise of 209 in just 24 hours.
All parts of the country are now on an “emergency footing”, Mr Jenrick said.
Speaking at the government’s daily press briefing he said: “This is an unprecedented step in peace time, we haven’t done anything like this since the Second World War.
“This means that we are establishing strategic coordination centres across the whole country.”
Mr Jenrick said each centre would be led by gold commanders – police or emergency service leader specifically trained to handle major incidents.
He added: “This weekend sees the start of extraordinary steps to support the most clinically vulnerable, while they shield from coronavirus.
“We will support these people at this difficult time, and the scale of an operation like that has not been seen since the Second World War.”
The government said it was bringing together senior members of the emergency services, with local authorities and the NHS to “lead communities through this challenging period, from Cornwall to Cumbria”, he added.
Members of the armed forces will be embedded in each of these groups, Mr Jenrick said.
The press conference came just hours after Cabinet minister Michael Gove refused to say when all NHS workers would receive coronavirus testing, despite widespread concern among medics.
Mr Jenrick told the Downing Street briefing that millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) were being delivered to NHS staff.
“We simply cannot and should not ask people to be on the frontline without the right protective equipment,” he said.
He said the Government had established a “national supply distribution response team” to deliver PPE to those in need, supported by the Armed Forces and other emergency services.
Some 170 million masks and almost 10 million items of cleaning equipment are among the items being delivered to NHS trusts and healthcare settings, he said.
“All delivered to 58,000 NHS trusts and healthcare settings, including GP surgeries, pharmacies and community providers,” he told the briefing.
“Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices, and home care providers have, or will shortly, receive a delivery.”
Tests for frontline staff were being trialled over the weekend, ahead of a wider roll-out, in a move that would allow those self-isolating with potential symptoms to return to duty if they get the all-clear.
But calls were growing for much more extensive testing, with practising medic and Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan saying it was “absolutely urgent” that health workers had access to testing “immediately”.
Although Mr Gove said the Government has hit its initial target of 10,000 tests per day for the wider public, calls were growing for a greater programme to be introduced.
And official figures later showed testing only reached 6,961 between 9am on Saturday and the same time on Sunday. The Department of Health could not immediately explain the disparity.
Mr Gove declined to say when all health and social care staff will be tested for the virus, instead telling Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I hope that we will be able to test as many frontline workers at the earliest possible stage.”
But across Britain the public has stepped up to the mark – the NHS confirmed 750,000 people have signed up as volunteers to help others through the coronavirus crisis, three times the initial target, less than a week after the appeal was announced.
Recruitment has now been paused to allow applications to be processed and to get the “volunteer army” up and running, the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) said.
The Service said it has been “absolutely overwhelmed” by the response to what was the biggest call-out for volunteers in England since the Second World War.
The Government launched an appeal on Tuesday for 250,000 people to help vulnerable people who are self-isolating for 12 weeks.
Just two days later, it was announced that more than double (560,000 people) had signed up and the target was increased to 750,000.
Now it has been disclosed that the new target has been met.
Those signing up will be helping to deliver shopping and medication to those in need, transport patients and NHS equipment, or check in and chat on the phone with individuals at risk of loneliness as a result of self-isolation.
Catherine Johnstone, RVS chief executive, said: “On Tuesday evening, Royal Voluntary Service readied itself to launch the biggest call-out for volunteers in England since the Second World War.
“Less than 24 hours later, we had hit our target of 250,000 sign-ups and today that number is at 750,000.
“We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response and cannot thank the public enough. As history shows, it is often in times of crisis that we pull together and become our best selves.”