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Black cabs could transport doctors and nurses during coronavirus outbreak, Boris Johnson says

Black cabs could be used to transport doctors and nurses during the UK’s coronavirus outbreak, Boris Johnson has said.

The prime minister said on Wednesday that London’s black cab service was being considered for use to help NHS workers travel safely across the capital.

The plans were being drawn up amid complaints from health workers about packed London Underground trains at peak hours despite the government’s nationwide lockdown, which was designed to prevent close contact between members of the public.

Sir Charles Walker, a Conservative MP, told Mr Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions there was an “army” of drivers “itching to get involved like the Spitfires in 1940”.

“Can we find a way if we need to get doctors and nurses safely across London to use these black cab drivers, not on the meter but perhaps on a contracted basis?” the senior Tory backbencher asked.

Mr Johnson replied: “My honourable friend makes a superb point and indeed that has already been raised in our considerations.

“The black cab drivers are a fantastic service, they are an unsung service and I believe they can certainly rise to this challenge.”

The prime minister’s comments came as the government ramped up its response to the Covid-19 pandemic this week.

On Monday, Mr Johnson introduced an unprecedented three week nationwide lockdown and ordered the British public to stay at home, except for a strictly limited set of essential activities, to slow the spread of the virus.

On Tuesday, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, announced an emergency hospital with 4,000 beds was being set up at the Excel centre in London to treat coronavirus victims within a week.

“The NHS Nightingale Hospital will comprise two wards, each of 2,000 people. With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians, we will make sure that we have the capacity that we need,” Mr Hancock said. 

The government has also put out a call for a 250,000-strong volunteer force to help the NHS deal with cases – with more than 400,000 people signing up to help within the space of 24 hours.

There were more than 8,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK, with more than 400 deaths, as of Wednesday morning.

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