LONDON: Britain has challenged tech start-ups to help counter the effects of social isolation on people's mental health, with grants of £25,000 available for digital solutions that can be up and running in the next few weeks.
All Britons have been told to avoid unnecessary interaction to slow the spread of coronavirus and a further 1.5 million people with underlying health conditions have been instructed to cease all social contact for 12 weeks.
The government said a total of £500,000 (US$578,000) of funding would be available to innovators who can find digital ways to support those who need help during the outbreak - including people requiring mental health support and those with social care needs.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said staying at home and avoiding contact with others would ultimately save lives.
"However, we know isolation is not easy - especially for older people, those who live alone, have mental health problems or those who care for others," he said.
"If people cannot leave the house, we need to quickly find ways to bring support to them and today I am calling on the strength of our innovative technology sector to take on this challenge."
Many Britons have turned to digital technology to maintain contact with friends and family, and to participate in activities like exercise classes and book clubs online.