Matt Hancock has announced the government will pay £60,000 to the families of NHS workers and social care staff who die from coronavirus in the course of “essential frontline work”.

The health secretary told the Downing Street Covid-19 press conference that 82 NHS staff and 16 social care workers had lost their lives after contracting the disease during the pandemic.

Speaking on Monday, the cabinet minister revealed the new life assurance scheme – funded by the government – and said ministers were looking at other frontline professions who do not have access to similar schemes.

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He said: “Today I’m able to announce the government is setting up a life assurance scheme for NHS and social care frontline staff. Families of staff who die from coronavirus in the course of their essential frontline work will receive a £60,000 payment.

“Of course, nothing replaces the loss of a loved one but we want do everything we can to help these families dealing with grief.”

Mr Hancock continued: “As a government, we are looking closely at other professions that work on the front line against coronavirus, who also do not have access to such schemes, to see where this may be required.”

Asked whether overseas workers will qualify for the scheme, the health secretary said: “The answer is yes. This is for frontline staff working in the NHS and social care who die and are employees within NHS and social care.”

It comes after ministers faced significant criticism in recent weeks over whether NHS frontline staff have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment – an issue highlighted following a delayed shipment of vital materials from Turkey.

Responding to the announcement, Donna Kinnair, the chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: “On the eve of the silence to remember those who paid the highest price, this announcement will bring reassurance to families in difficult situations. No amount of cash can make up for a family member who passes away but financial security should never add to the worries of those in grief.

“The RCN and other health unions fought for this government announcement and we will examine the detail closely. It must be easily accessed, open to those in social care and primary care too and be paid promptly – no family should face a lengthy or complex process.”

Mr Hancock also announced that some NHS services which had been paused due to the coronavirus outbreak will be restored from Tuesday, adding: “As the number of hospitalisations from coronavirus begins to fall, I can announce that, starting tomorrow, we will begin the restorations of other NHS services – starting with the most urgent, like cancer care and mental health support.

“The exact pace of the restoration will be determined by local circumstances on the ground, according to local need and according to the amount of coronavirus cases that that hospital is having to deal with.”

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