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Hancock writes off £13.4 billion NHS debt

THE £13.4 billion of NHS debt will be written off to help the service during the coronavirus crisis, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced at the daily press briefing today.

Mr Hancock said this “landmark step” would put the health service in a strong position to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, and ensure the NHS has “stronger foundations for the future too.”

In his first appearance since being tested positive for Covid-19 only seven days ago, Mr Hancock said he is also making £300 million available for community pharmacies to make sure “every part” of the health and care system is supported.”

Mr Hancock also said testing made a priority for patients over NHS staff was also the right choice after offering condolences to the families of the workers who died, adding that testing will be rolled out for the first time over the weekend.

He added that he was “setting the goal” of reaching 100,000 tests per day by the end of April — up from the current 10,000 — as part of a “five-pillar plan.”

This would include both antigen tests, which show if you are currently infected, and antibody tests, which show if you had coronavirus in the past.

He said the country lacked a large diagnostics industry and was, therefore, having to build for a “lower base” than countries like Germany, which is testing at great levels for coronavirus.

The announcement came as the death toll across the UK increased to 2,921 after 569 more people died in 24 hours with the rate of infection doubling every two to three days. 

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