England’s chief nursing officer has said she “worries there will be more deaths” as she paid tribute to frontline NHS workers who died after contracting coronavirus.
Ruth May urged the public to shun any sunny weather this weekend and stay home to honour the memories of nurses Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke, both mothers-of-three in their 30s, who died in the past 24 hours.
Speaking alongside Mr Hancock at a Downing Street briefing, Ms May said: “This weekend is going to be very warm and it will be very tempting to go out and enjoy those summer rays.
“But please, I ask to remember Aimee and Areema. Please stay at home for them.”
She added: “They were one of us, they were one of my profession, of the NHS family.
“I worry that there’s going to be more and I want to honour them today and recognise their service.”
Having recovered from his own bout of Covid-19, Mr Hancock said “the whole nation is grateful” to NHS staff for working through difficult times, amid lingering concerns of a lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) and frontline testing.
Speaking at the opening of the NHS Nightingale field hospital at the ExCel centre in east London, Mr Hancock told the PA news agency: “I pay tribute to the NHS staff who’ve died serving the NHS, serving the nation.
“It shows the incredible bravery of every member of the NHS who goes into work knowing that these dangers are there.
“I think it is a testament to every doctor and nurse and paramedic and other health professional who is working in the NHS in these difficult times.
“And I think the whole nation is grateful.”
And Ms O’Rourke, also a mother-of-three who worked at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, was heralded by friends as a nurse who “gave her life to make sure other people survived” during the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking to PA at the London hospital, Ms May added: “I’m hugely grateful to the tens of thousands of nurses, doctors, health and social care workers that day in, day out are working around the clock.
“They know that this is the greatest global health emergency and I am grateful, personally grateful, for everyone that’s stepping up to support the NHS right now.
“I know as a nurse myself that we, in our time of need, it’s important that we are there to serve our patients.
“And I am grateful for them all doing that day in, day out.”
Downing Street confirmed more than 26.7 million units of PPE were delivered to 281 NHS “trusts and providers” in England on Thursday.
It follows the new guidance issued by Public Health England about the level of protection health staff should wear depending on the patient situation.