LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Tuesday it would automatically renew the visas of foreign healthcare workers without charge to ensure they could focus on fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

The extension will apply to about 2,800 doctors, nurses and paramedics working in the stretched National Health Service (NHS) whose visas were due to expire before Oct. 1, and the measure will also include their family members.

“Doctors, nurses and paramedics from all over the world are playing a leading role in the NHS’s efforts to tackle coronavirus and save lives. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do,” Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel said.

“I don’t want them distracted by the visa process.”

In February, Britain announced plans for a new post-Brexit points-based immigration system to cut down on what it said was a reliance on “cheap labor from Europe” but critics said the measures could cause a shortage in NHS staffing.

However, the government said the new system would include an NHS Visa initiative with preferential rules to attract doctors and nurses.