Covid-19 update: UK deaths cross 36,000, including 695 Indians
The number of daily deaths and new cases is showing a steady decline, particularly in London, but new figures on Thursday revealed the UK-wide death toll had reached a cumulative figure of 36,042 (including 695 ‘Indians’ in England) and 250,098 cases.
According to NHS England, 695 members of the non-white community categorised as ‘Indian’ died after contracting coronavirus as of May 19. The UK-wide death toll of 36,042 includes a day rise of 338.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced renewed calls from within and outside the ruling party to scrap the immigration health surcharge levied on Indian and other non-EU health professionals who need to pay 400 pounds per person per year to access the National Health Service (NHS).
Senior Conservative party called it ‘immoral and monstrous’ that migrants putting their lives at risk to treat coronavirus patients had to pay the surcharge, which amounts to them for it twice, since they also pay income tax, which funds the NHS. The surcharge is levied on all non-EU migrants, and the demand is to scrap it for doctors and other healthcare professionals.
Johnson told the House of Commons that he recognised the contribution of migrants and recalled his own recent life-saving treatment at the hands of nurses from outside the UK, but refused to scrap the surcharge on the ground that the NHS needs the funding.
The surcharge, payable at the time a migrant applies for a UK visa, is to rise to 624 pounds per person per year from October. Various organisations, including the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin have campaigned the the surcharge to be waived.
There are indications that some flights will operate from early June to selected holiday destinations within the UK and Europe as part of plans to gradually reopen the economy while maintaining social distancing and other curbs.
The Home Office meanwhile extended the offer of permanent stay (indefinite leave to remain), free of charge, to the families and dependants of non-EU NHS support staff and social care workers who die as result of contracting coronavirus. It will be applicable retrospectively.
Home secretary Priti Patel said: “Every death in this crisis is a tragedy, and sadly some NHS support staff and social care workers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of saving the lives of others”.
“When I announced the introduction of the bereavement scheme in April, I said we would continue to work across government to look at ways to offer further support. Today we are extending the scheme to NHS support staff and social care workers”.