Downing Street, the residence of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, teemed with tech luminaries on Wednesday night, as the UK leader urged companies to provide resources to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
The evening included on a roundtable chaired by the country’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and NHS chief executive Simon Stevens. They asked the heads of over 30 UK-based tech businesses, such as Google’s AI firm DeepMind, to offer solutions to ease Coronavirus’ spiraling economic destruction.
One attendee called the event a “digital Dunkirk,” alluding to the 1940 evacuation of surrounded British troops from French beaches by civilian boats – a major turning point in the Second World War.
Offers from Wednesday’s operation included a vow by Uber to provide free taxi rides to medical staff, Deliveroo pledging to feed hospital workers, and Amazon freeing up video conferencing services to Britain’s health service. Suggestions were passed by Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings to representatives of NHSX, the health service’s digital transformation wing.
The event follows an enterprise-led outreach in the US, in which companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google offered free services to dampen the effects of COVID-19, which has caused almost 5,000 deaths worldwide.