THE Foreign Office has finally moved to help the tens of thousands of British nationals stuck overseas because of the coronavirus.

Dominic Raab yesterday announced a £75 million airlift initiative, which will see the UK government partnering with British Airways, Easyjet, Jet 2, and Titan Airways.

Ministers will charter planes to bring home people from “priority” countries, while travellers in countries where commercial flights are still running will be provided with subsidies for tickets.

The Foreign Secretary said that in countries where commercial flights are not available, the Government would provide the “necessary financial support for special charter flights to bring UK nationals back home”.

Detailing the plans at the UK Government’s daily briefing on coronavirus, Raab said the new arrangement between the Government and airlines would be able to “fly home tens of thousands of stranded British travellers”.

READ MORE: MSPs set to debate further coronavirus measures for Scotland

He added: “Once special charter flights have been arranged, we will promote them through the Government’s travel advice and by the British embassy or High Commission in the relevant country.

“British travellers who want a seat on those flights will book and pay directly through a dedicated travel management company.

“We have designated £75m to support those flights and the airlines in order to keep the costs down and affordable for those seeking to return to the UK.”

Raab said priority would be given to the most vulnerable, including the elderly or those with pressing medical needs.

He said airlines would be responsible for getting passengers home where commercial routes remain an option.

READ MORE: Loganair to seek bailout from Government for coronavirus impact

“That means offering alternative flights at little to no cost where routes have been cancelled, and it means allowing passengers to change tickets – including between carriers.

“So for those still in those countries where commercial options are still available: don’t wait. Don’t run the risk of getting stranded. The airlines are standing by to help you – please book your tickets as soon as possible.”

Raab said an “unprecedented” number of British travellers were trying to return to the UK.

So far the Foreign Office has helped around 150,000 British nationals return from Spain, while 8500 were brought back from Morocco and 5000 from Cyprus.

READ MORE: EasyJet grounds entire aircraft fleet due to coronavirus

The Foreign Secretary added: “We’ve not faced challenges like this in getting people home from abroad on this scale in recent memory.”

The new arrangement comes after weeks of pressure in Parliament.

The SNP’s Margaret Ferrier tweeted: “I welcome the announcement by Dominic Raab on plans to help our citizens stranded abroad return home.

“I have constituents stuck in India, Pakistan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand to name a few.

“It’s taken continued pressure on the UK Government.”

READ MORE: Tackling domestic abuse is 'a priority' for Police Scotland

Her colleague, Stewart McDonald, was less enthusiastic: “This isn’t good enough from Raab. I’ve got constituents stranded all over the globe where routes are open and commercial options are available, but people can’t afford them because airlines are practically extorting customers. Step the heck up, man!”

Meanwhile, at the press briefing the Government revealed that the number of people who have now died a coronavirus-related death in the UK has risen from 1228 to 1408, an increase of 180.

That’s below the day-on-day increases seen during the past few days.

Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said he believed the lockdown measures would have “a significant effect” on the number of cases of Covid-19.

He said data showed that the number of people using the Tube in London, and trains and buses across the UK, has slumped compared to a month ago.

Vallance added that the number of people admitted to hospital with the virus was expected to continue to increase over the next few weeks, before the UK begins to experience a period of stagnation.

Currently admissions into British hospitals are at around 1000 per day.

“That’s not an acceleration. It’s quite important, it tells you that actually this is a bit more stable than it has been. I expect the number of people coming every day to be about that, it may go up a little bit, and then in two or three weeks you would expect that to stabilise and then to start to go down a bit.”

He warned that it was “premature” to predict the end of the lockdown.

Scotland in lockdown. Shops are closing and newspaper sales are falling fast. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of The National is at stake. Please consider supporting us through this with a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months by following this link: Thanks – and stay safe.