LONDON: UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Monday announced more than 14 billion pounds from Britain's Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund for the country's public services, including the National Health Service (NHS) and local authorities involved in the fight against the pandemic.
The funding unveiled by the Indian-origin finance minister includes more than 6 billion pounds to support the NHS, free up hospital beds and deliver urgent priorities including acquiring ventilators, diagnostic tests and protective equipment for NHS staff.
"Our public services and its incredible workers are working with immense resolve and skill to keep us safe. We depend on them, which is why we are doing everything we can to provide our NHS, local authorities and others, with the resources and tools they need to tackle the virus," said Sunak.
From the start, I've been clear our vital public services will get whatever they need to protect this country and its people from coronavirus. We are delivering on our pledge, he said.
The UK's Treasury department said that the support will also enable home delivery of medicines to the most vulnerable people in the country, and it has already helped support medical and nursing students and retired doctors and nurses to join the frontline.
Alongside 1.6 billion pounds of new funding for local authorities, the department headed by Sunak said that it has provided a total of 2.9 billion pounds to support local services and hospital discharge, reinforcing care for the vulnerable, and meaning that those who are strong enough can leave hospital more quickly, freeing up bed space for patients that need it.
It is also working closely with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to provide access to the emergency funding set aside for dealing with the fallout of the pandemic.
During his maiden Budget on March 11, Sunak had initially set aside a 5 billion pounds fund as a rapid response during the early stages of the coronavirus crisis and pledged extra resources needed by the NHS and public services over time.
The latest funds injection comes as some media reports indicate that the UK Chancellor has warned his Cabinet colleagues that the country's GDP could fall by as much as 30 per cent in the April-June quarter as a result of the pandemic.
This estimate would be in line with the UK's National Institute of Economic and Social Research's recent forecast that the UK GDP could shrink by 15-25 per cent in the second quarter of the year, with the economy entering a fourth week of lockdown.