Priti Patel praises emergency service workers as the 'glue' holding Britain together
22 March 2020, 13:54 | Updated: 22 March 2020, 14:08
The Home Secretary has hailed NHS staff, police and firefighters as the "glue holding us all together" amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In an open letter, Priti Patel said it is clear the country faces its biggest challenge since the Second World War.
Describing the emergency services as "incredible", she said: "I know that you - our front-line police officers and firefighters - will be the glue holding us all together over the coming weeks and months.
"And as Home Secretary I am doing everything possible to make sure you have the resources and powers you need to keep serving the communities you love.
"It is an honour to be associated with each and every one of you.
"Our country is going to be tested. But I know that if we all emulate your selflessness, compassion and commitment, there is nothing that we cannot overcome."
The latest official figures released on Saturday showed the number of people across the UK who have died after testing positive for Covid-19 has risen to 233, with 53 more deaths in England, two in Wales and one in Scotland.
The Government and health officials have urged the 1.5 million people in England considered most at risk from the disease because of their health conditions to begin "shielding" themselves by staying at home.
Letters will go out this week "strongly advising" them not to go out for at least 12 weeks from Monday.
The Government has also announced a new local support system to ensure people self-isolating at home without support networks can have basic groceries delivered.
Military planners, already helping councils and local resilience forums in their responses to the outbreak, have been centrally involved in setting up the new network.
Those being urged to stay at home include people who have received organ transplants, those severe with respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis and severe chronic bronchitis (COPD), and with some cancers such as those of the blood or bone marrow.
They also include some - though not all - of those receiving certain types of drug treatments including those which suppress the immune system - leaving the body less able to fight off the virus.
Where possible, they will receive regular text messages containing advice and guidance on how to manage their condition while at home, including having prescriptions delivered and accessing support for daily living.
Those living with them are urged to "stringently" minimise any personal contact.