NHS England is cancelling all routine surgery from April 15 for a period of at least three months, and discharging all inpatients as a matter of great urgency, to help deal with the Covid-19 outbreak.

The latest measures revealed by health bosses on Tuesday would see hospital patients who are ‘medically fit’ sent home to free up staff and beds as the UK attempts to stem the spread of the deadly disease. 

In a letter sent to health trusts across the country, NHS heads claimed that the novel coronavirus presented the national healthcare system with “arguably the greatest challenge it has faced since its creation.” 

The plan is intended to free up a third of the 100,000 NHS hospital beds in England. The health service is also looking into hiring out private hospitals and their staff to handle the rapid escalation in coronavirus patients and enable urgent operations to go ahead.

The UK authorities announced on Tuesday afternoon that the number of Covid-19 cases had reached 1,950 – up 407 in 24 hours, with deaths now standing at 71. PM Boris Johnson announced new UK plans on Monday to counter the threat, which were ostensibly a series of advisory measures, rather than the more draconian steps taken in mainland Europe.

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