Ministers plan for 100,000 Coronavirus deaths as Rishi Sunak offers NHS ‘whatever it needs’ to tackle outbreak
Officials and ministers are planning for the potential deaths of 100,000 Brits from coronavirus as measures to control the outbreak are stepped up.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged to give the NHS “whatever it needs” to deal with the public health crisis as an emergency bill is set to be tabled in Parliament.
Part of the legislation will ensure up to three million volunteers will be able to commit to supporting the health and social care system while having their day-jobs protected for up to four weeks.
The upcoming COVID-19 Emergency Bill will also include an expansion of video hearings in courts as Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed an extra 500 staff have been put in place on the NHS 111 helpline as calls have increased by more than a third.
It comes as The Sunday Times reports a source claiming that officials in Whitehall had began describing the 100,000 figure as the “central estimate” of the potential death toll.
This is just under half the number of British deaths to Spanish flu in 1918, the worst modern pandemic, and also includes those likely to die from seasonal flu, which averages around 17,000 a year.
One official involved in the planning told the newspaper: “The central estimate of deaths is about 100,000.
“Everyone has been focusing on the worst case but this is what the experts actually expect to happen. Some of those people would have died of other flus.”
Downing Street did not contest the total, with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Monday on the issue.
Speaking on Sunday, Mr Sunak said the Government “stands ready to give the NHS whatever it needs”, as health experts are expected to urge moving formally to the “delay” phase in dealing with the outbreak.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday ahead of his first Budget as Chancellor this week, he said: “I’m working hard with the team to make sure that we have the interventions required to help anyone through a difficult period first and foremost, supporting public services but also helping vulnerable people and also businesses to get through anything that might be coming our way.”
Elsewhere the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is due to hold meetings with sporting bodies about plans to potentially delay fixtures or hold them behind closed doors, and the Environment Secretary George Eustice will meet with supermarkets to discuss supply chain issues.
There are also plans to potentially delay GCSE and A-Level exams, as well as May’s local elections, and the Brexit talks could be put back if the crisis deepens.
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