Matt Hancock has just confirmed he is writing off £13.4 billion worth of NHS debt.
The Health Secretary today chaired today's live Coronavirus press conference from Downing Street in Boris Johnson's absence.
The senior British politician serving as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has only just come out of isolation after testing positive himself for COVID-19 last week.
BREAKING: Health Secretary says he is writing off £13.4bn of NHS debt. That is a colossal number (among many). Says he wants NHS to focus on the fight against #covid19, rather than balancing the books.— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) April 2, 2020
NHS debt has risen steeply over the last three years, as dozens of trusts with budget deficits have become reliant on interest-bearing loans to maintain payments to staff and suppliers.
He says writing off all NHS debt will put the service in a "stronger position" to fight the coronavirus, and for its long-term future.
He also says new guidance on the protective equipment for NHS staff published today is "amongst the highest in the world".
Blimey. @MattHancock writes off £13.4bn of NHS trusts’ debt, so they are not too financially constrained in tackling this crisis— Robert Peston (@Peston) April 2, 2020
Mr Hancock was joined by Public Health England’s director of health protection Prof Yvonne Doyle and NHS England’s national medical director Stephen Powis.
The number of people who have lost their lives to the disease has risen by more than 560 in the past day.