One of the few heartening pieces of news in recent days is that some 500,000 people have answered the call to volunteer to help the National Health Service. The “National Help Service”, as it’s been nicknamed, is a remarkable display of selfless devotion to duty in a country hitherto seemingly characterised by panic buying, reckless sharing of public spaces, and the likes of Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin denying science.
That, though, is about the limit of the reassuring developments as the epidemic intensifies. Whether unavoidable because of the unprecedented nature of the epidemic or not, the NHS is still short of the personal protective equipment (PPE) – masks, aprons, gloves – that clinicians need to save lives and prevent hospitals themselves becoming Covid-19 hubs. Ministers plead that they have ordered millions of PPE items, and that they will arrive soon. Unfortunately, that will already be too late for some London hospitals already at capacity.