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The NHS will restart some vital services, including cancer care, from today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said, as he admitted the government has a "lot of work" to do to hit its 100,000 a day testing target.  (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The NHS will restart some vital services, including cancer care, from today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said, as he admitted the government has a "lot of work" to do to hit its 100,000 a day testing target. (Andrew Milligan/PA)

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The NHS will restart some vital services, including cancer care, from today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said, as he admitted the government has a "lot of work" to do to hit its 100,000 a day testing target. (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The NHS will restart some vital services, including cancer care, from today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said, as he admitted the government has a "lot of work" to do to hit its 100,000 a day testing target.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press briefing, Mr Hancock also announced a life assurance scheme to pay £60,000 to the families of those frontline NHS and social care workers who have died in the course of their duties.

It comes as England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the coronavirus epidemic in the UK still has a "very long way to run" and there was "no perfect solution" to easing the lockdown, adding there were "difficult choices" to be made.

Some 29,058 tests had been carried out in England, Scotland and Wales in the 24 hours up to 9am on Saturday, according to the latest figures, suggesting the government is way off its 100,000 a day target set for this Thursday.

Mr Hancock said the government was "broadly where we expected to be" in terms of testing capacity but admitted there was a lot of work to do to hit the 100,000 a day goal. He added: "It is important to note that we have already gone past the number of tests, per day, for instance, that they carry out in South Korea.

"We are approaching the levels that Germany undertakes."

Mr Hancock said the number of patients attending A&E had fallen to 221,000 in the last week from 477,000 in the same week last year, as he urged people in need to use the NHS. "In some cases we know that the drop is due to people not coming forward and using the NHS for critical things that matter," he said.

Some key NHS services which had been paused due to coronavirus will be restored from today, starting with the most urgent cases first, as 42% of oxygen supported beds set aside for coronavirus are currently empty.

"As the number of hospitalisations from coronavirus begins to fall, I can announce that, starting tomorrow, we will begin the restoration of other NHS services - starting with the most urgent, like cancer care and mental health support," he said.

He said the "exact pace of the restoration" will be determined by hospitals based on how many Covid-19 patients they still have.

Mr Hancock also told the Downing Street briefing that 82 NHS workers and 16 social care staff had died so far as he announced the £60,000 payment for families.

"Of course, nothing replaces the loss of a loved one but we want to do everything we can to support families who are dealing with this grief," he added. A total of 21,092 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Sunday, Mr Hancock said, up by 360 from 20,732 the day before.

Belfast Telegraph