A NEW army of volunteers is being recruited to help the NHS and the 1.5 million people shielding themselves from the coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says that 250,000 volunteers are needed to help deliver medicines, take people to appointments, bring them home from hospital and make regular phone calls to those self-isolating.

It comes after certain people most at risk of contracting a serious illness from Covid-19 were asked to stay at home for the next 12 weeks, whilst everyone else have been told to stay at home, with the exception of certain activities.

At the government's daily press conference, Mr Hancock said: "As the next step in that effort, today we launch NHS Volunteers.

"We are seeking a quarter of a million volunteers, people in good health to help the NHS for shopping and for delivery of medicine, and to support those who are shielded to support their own health.

"This is a new scheme set up so that people can come to help."

As well as this, Mr Hancock revealed that the government have bought 3.5 million antibody tests, which makes it possible to see if you've had the virus, and whether you are immune to it.

He continued: "In these extraordinary times, it’s essential that we all pull together as part of the national effort to protect the most vulnerable, reduce pressures on our NHS and care system and save lives.

“Your help has the potential to make a real difference to some of those most affected by this outbreak – from delivering essential prescriptions to calling to check on the wellbeing of those self-isolating."

The health secretary also revealed that 11,788 people have answered his call to former NHS staff to return to the frontline line, including 2,660 doctors, more than 2,500 other health professionals and 6,147 nurses.

He adds that from next week, 5,500 final year medics and 18,700 final year student nurses will join them.

"I pay tribute to each and every one of those who are returning to the NHS at its hour of need."

This announcement came on the first day of partial lockdown imposed by the government.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation last night that people must stay at home, except for shopping as little as possible, one form of exercise a day, any medical needs and going to and from work, where working from home is impossible.

Mr Hancock reiterated this evening that these measures were not a request, but instructions.

"The more we follow the rules, the sooner we stop the spread, and so everybody has a responsibility to follow those rules and stay at home," he said.

It comes after two more people in Hampshire were confirmed to have died after testing positive for Covid-19.