A survey has suggested more people are now avoiding leaving home as public concern over coronavirus increases.

The results, said pollsters, indicated the public were 'increasingly getting' government messages over social distancing and remaining indoors, designed to halt the spread of the virus and protect the NHS.

And the data gathered also suggested a surge in the number of people wearing face masks when out and about, they claimed.

The survey's results were revealed as Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said more than £13bn of historic NHS debt would be written off to place health trusts in a 'stronger position' to respond and cope with the pandemic.

More people are now said to be wearing face masks

He also announced a goal of '100,000 coronavirus tests a day' by the end of the month and pledged £300m for community pharmacies.

At least 140 people have died at Greater Manchester's hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus, with more than 1,000 cases confirmed across the region.

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The UK's death toll today increased by 569 to 2,921 – the highest day-on-day rise since the outbreak began.

Market research company Ipsos MORI reported another increase in social distancing by staying at home.

Police have been granted new powers in the lockdown

They said the proportion of the public reporting avoiding leaving the house has now increased to 79 per cent - up from 50 per cent two weeks ago.

The data is based on an online survey of 18 to 75 year olds carried out between March 27 to 30.

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,072 adults online by asking them a series of questions relating to behavioural change, concern over the Covid-19 virus and confidence in the NHS.

The results, said the pollsters, showed an increase in people wearing surgical or face masks.

A Government poster

The figure stood at six percent a week ago and has now doubled.

The proportion of the public shopping online for 'non-groceries' has also increased from 11 per cent to 18 per cent.

Ipsos MORI said the change in behaviour 'follows a surge in people believing that COVID-19 poses a threat to themselves personally, up to 78 per cent from 61 per cent last week.

Confidence in the NHS' ability to deal with the problems caused by the virus remains high, at 71 per cent.

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: "These trends show that the British public is increasingly getting the Government’s message and staying at home.

"People are increasingly concerned for themselves and the country as a whole so the consistent and steadily growing confidence in the NHS' ability to cope with COVID-19 is reassuring during this crisis."