One healthcare worker in ten is at home because of the virus, according to early reports from NHS trusts.
NHS England has begun collecting information on staff absence and although the data is not fully available officials offered an early indication because of concern about what they felt were claims from professional bodies made without evidence.
On Monday the Royal College of Physicians said that 25 per cent of doctors were off, and the Royal College of Nursing reported absence rates of about 20 per cent at the weekend.
Many of those not at work are thought to have been forced into 14 days of self-isolation by a family member or housemate developing a temperature or persistent cough.
Hospitals have been told to set up testing for those individuals as a priority, with the aim of getting staff back to work if they turn out to have another illness. Some staff, however, will be absent because they have coronavirus, potentially caught from patients.
Samantha Batt-Rawden, a senior registrar who leads the Doctors’ Association UK, said that official data on staff sickness was vital.
She said: “Monitoring those who become unwell with Covid-19 symptoms may allow us to compare rates of infection among healthcare workers with other countries.”
She said the figures could “act as a surrogate marker for how well Public Health England strategy on personal protective equipment is faring”.
A cross-party group of 50 MPs has called for a compensation scheme for frontline workers who die while working to combat coronavirus. In a letter they say: “Just like members of the armed forces they should know that if the worst happens, the state will help their families”.
It calls for a new scheme including an upfront lump sum and guaranteed income for their family.