Syrian refugee joins Britain’s coronavirus front line

Hassan Akkad left Syria for the UK in 2015 and has been called a ‘hero’ for helping the country's health service

 A woman passes with a stroller a banner showing support for the NHS, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff
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A Syrian refugee living in Britain has lent his support to the country’s fight against coronavirus as a cleaner with the National Health Service.

Hassan Akkad, who now lives in the UK capital, signed up to help keep St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London clean as it is used to treat Covid-19 patients.

Mr Akkad shared an image of himself on Twitter dressed in full protective gear, saying he received special training before he began work.

“London has been my home since leaving Syria, and the least I can do is making sure my neighbours and the amazing NHS staff are safe and sound,” he said in a Tweet on Tuesday morning.

Mr Akkad said he was “honoured to join an army of cleaners” working to disinfect coronavirus wards at the hospital, commonly known as Barts.

More than 40,000 people responded to the post, with many users offering their thanks for his contribution to the NHS.

“Your work is skilled, difficult and all too often undervalued. We simply couldn’t function without you. Thank you, Hassan, stay safe,” wrote one Twitter user.

“You are a hero, Hassan,” wrote another.

Mr Akkad, who taught English in Damascus before coming to Britain, escaped Syria in 2015, where he had been imprisoned by the Bashar Al Assad regime.

His journey to Europe, in which he crossed the Aegean Sea on an overcrowded dinghy, was featured in the BBC television series Exodus, which put video cameras into the hands of migrants.

With more than 12,000 confirmed cases, the British capital is at the centre of the country’s outbreak. The disease has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the UK, which has recorded more than 50,000 cases nationwide.

More than 750,000 people answered the government’s call to help the NHS as it grapples with the outbreak. The government scheme had originally set a target of recruiting 250,000 volunteers to help vulnerable people in the country, but was inundated with offers.

The initial wave of volunteers accepted onto the scheme received their first tasks on Tuesday.

Government scientists believe that the country’s daily death toll will continue to rise until at least April 12. Britain is yet to decide when it will lift the lockdown measures put in place to limit the spread of the virus.

Britain's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, remains in intensive care, where he is receiving treatment for the complications arising from coronavirus.