The official number of NHS staff who have died after contracting Covid-19 has risen to 27, the Health Secretary confirmed.
Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast on Thursday there had “very sadly” been 27 verified deaths amongst those working for the health service during the pandemic.
This updated figure is an increase from Saturday, when he said there had been 19 deaths since the start of the outbreak.
But announcements from NHS trusts and tributes from loved ones indicate the true number is higher still, with more than 40 NHS staff now said to have died with coroanvirus.
A hospital porter, a theatre assistant and a healthcare assistant were among the latest victims of the virus to be identified on Thursday.
Brian Darlington, a porter with Mid Cheshire Hospitals, died at Leighton Hospital after contracting Covid-19.
In a statement, his wife Ava said: “We were married for 46 years and Brian was a great husband, as well as father and grandfather.
“He was dedicated to the trust, and as a family we are grateful for and appreciative of all of the kind words and messages we have seen and received.”
Healthcare assistant Lourdes Campbell, who worked for Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, died on the critical care unit at Royal Bolton Hospital.
Chief executive of the trust Fiona Noden said: “She was a well-liked and valued member of the team, known for working extremely hard.
“She was dedicated to patient care and her colleagues respected her quiet, diligent and compassionate approach.”
Andy Treble, a theatre assistant at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital in North Wales, died on Wednesday after testing positive for Covid-19.
His sister Maria Molloy described her 57-year-old brother, who had worked at the hospital for almost 40 years, as a “kind man” who dedicated his life to his profession and “always had a smile on his face”.
Announcing the latest official death toll, Mr Hancock said the story of pregnant nurse Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, who died on Sunday, was a “terrible one”.
The nurse, who worked at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month.
Her baby daughter was delivered successfully by caesarean section and is doing well, according to the hospital, although it is not clear whether the infant has also tested positive for the disease.
Ms Agyapong had been working at the hospital until at least March 12, Channel 4 News reported, but the hospital said it did not have any coronavirus patients before she took maternity leave.
More than £100,000 has since been raised for Ms Agyapong’s family on a GoFundMe page.
Mr Hancock said: “Very sadly there are now 27 verified deaths amongst NHS colleagues.
“I think these are incredibly heart-rending. The story of Mary, as you say, is a terrible one.
“It’s something that I feel very strongly and I think the whole country, uniting as we are in our support for the NHS and carers across the board.
“We’re all deeply touched and moved by deaths of nurses like this.”
Mr Hancock said every death among healthcare workers was being investigated to find out “what we can do better” to protect those on the front line.
He told BBC Breakfast that while some NHS staff will have caught it from patients, “others may have caught it and not been at work”.