LONDON: The UK has announced a 60,000-pound insurance scheme for the families of National Health Service workers who lose their lives on the frontlines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 21,157 people in the country so far with 158,348 cases and 807 recoveries.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who announced the Life Assurance Scheme at the daily Downing Street briefing on Monday, said that while no amount of money can replace the loss of a loved one, the government's effort was to do "everything that we can" to support families dealing with bereavement.
"I feel a deep personal sense of duty that we must care for their loved ones," the minister said.
"As a government, we are looking closely at other professions that work on the frontline against the coronavirus, who also do not have access to such schemes, to see where this may be required," he added.
The briefing on Monday marked the first time that a question from a member of the public, chosen independently through a polling agency, was read out ahead of the usual journalists' questions directed at the minister and professor Chris Whitty, the UK's Chief Medical Officer, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's Chief Scientific Adviser.
The question asked if being able to hug a close family member would be one of the first steps out of lockdown, and was answered by all three as something the government hopes to move towards as the risk of infection reduces.
"It is important that people who are vulnerable continue to be protected even after the next steps occur," said Whitty.
He also indicated that the lower rate of daily death toll hike, which was up 360 from Sunday's figure, could be an "artificial drop" due to lower notification rates from UK hospitals over the weekend.
As the number of hospitalisations continued a downward trend, the government said that some of the other NHS medical services, which had been paused due to the coronavirus outbreak, will be restored from Tuesday.
"As the number of hospitalisations from coronavirus begins to fall, I can announce that, starting tomorrow, we will begin the restoration of other NHS services - starting with the most urgent, like cancer care and mental health support," said Hancock.
The latest update came as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took charge at 10 Downing Street earlier on Monday after returning from his COVID-19 convalescence from Chequers, his countryside retreat in Buckinghamshire over the weekend.
He addressed the nation from the podium outside his office in London to warn the British public that the period of "maximum risk" had not been passed and urged for further patience with the strict social distancing measures.