750,000 people volunteered to help Britain’s NHS. Now they’re being deployed.
LONDON — When the British government asked people to help the National Health Service during the coronavirus crisis, it called for a “volunteer army.” Within four days, 750,000 people had signed up — three times the original target and four times the size of the British armed forces.Britain hasn’t seen such a surge in volunteers since World War II, when the country pulled together in a way still remembered with immense pride. Now — with more than 60,000 people here having tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and with the prime minister among those who have been hospitalized — organizers are figuring out how to deploy the army, while individuals and companies are engaged in informal volunteer activities throughout the British Isles.Michael Hayes, 55, is a taxi driver who joined the volunteer army and is awaiting his first official assignment. In the meantime, he spends about five hours a day driving NHS staff home, at no cost, from Newham University Hospital in East London, where his three children were born.“Some of them come out, they’ve had dreadful days, the worst . . . and they are walking out thinking, ‘I still got to get home,’ I’m sort of like a little ray