Frontline workers should not have to risk their lives because they haven’t got the right protective equipment, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.
Sir Keir’s intervention comes as the death toll among health and care workers from coronavirus passed 100, according to figures compiled by PA.
The nation fell silent for one minute this morning to remember the key workers who have died during the pandemic.
The Labour leader said “too many” frontline workers have already died during the battle against Covid-19, adding that Britons “owe them a huge debt”.
In a video message, Sir Keir said: “Nobody should put their lives at risk because they haven’t got the right protective equipment.
“We owe it to them to make sure that we’ve got the right equipment, in the right place at the right time, and we will continue to press on that.”
Meanwhile, Matt Hancock was pressed to issue a public apology over PPE shortages by the son of a doctor who died from coronavirus – after he had warned the government that doctors were having to work without adequate protection.
Intisar Chowdhury, the son of Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, who died earlier this month after being diagnosed with Covid-19, challenged the Health Secretary during a live phone in on LBC.
Five days before he was admitted to hospital, 53-year-old Dr Chowdhury wrote a Facebook post demanding that Prime Minister Boris Johnson provide every NHS worker with PPE as a matter of priority.
Speaking during an LBC phone-in, Hancock said: “We took very, very seriously what your father said and we’ve been working around the clock to ensure that there’s enough protective equipment and in the case of anybody who works in the NHS or in social care and has died from coronavirus we look into it in each case to find out the reasons where they might have caught it and what lessons we can learn.
Stopping short of an apology, Hancock added that the government has distributed more than a billion items of PPE.
“People need to have the PPE according to the guidelines,” he said. “The guidelines do say that in some cases PPE can safely be reused and that’s a good thing because PPE is in global short supply.”
Hancock was also quizzed about the findings of Exercise Cygnus – an unpublished pandemic drill in 2016.
He said: “It was before I was Health Secretary but I asked my officials to go back when this first came up in the press a few weeks ago and check that everything that was recommended was done and that’s the assurance I got, everything that was appropriate to do was done, that’s what I was told.
“The preparations that we had in this country were amongst the most extensive in the world but of course you can’t prepare for a virus that is itself completely new by its nature.”
He continued: “I’m spending all of my time day and night working out how we best respond, there will be a time when people can go back and ask questions about what happened in 2016, before I was Health Secretary, but frankly what matters is what you do with what you’ve got now.”
During the phone-in, Hancock was pressed by host LBC’s Nick Ferrari on whether he accepted that mistakes were made in the provision of PPE.
He replied: “Well, there are things that we’ve changed as we’ve gone through, both because we’ve learnt more things about the virus, also because things didn’t work out as we expected.”