Coronavirus: Delivery of 84 tonnes of protective equipment for NHS delayed

A delivery of 84 tonnes of desperately needed personal protective equipment for front line NHS staff has been delayed and will not be arriving today, Sky News understands.

The source of the delay is not yet known, but it is understood the RAF was ready to transport the PPE from Turkey, including 400,000 surgical gowns.

Ministers announced on Saturday the UK was due to get the vital gear today and the setback comes as the government faces growing criticism over shortages and its handling of the coronavirus crisis.

There have been claims that the lives of doctors, nurses and patients are at risk from COVID-19 because some supplies are running out this weekend.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Saturday the 84 tonnes of PPE was “a very significant additional shipment” but it is understood it would only be enough to last the NHS for three days.

Guidance from Public Health England says long-sleeved disposable fluid-repellent gowns should be worn when treating COVID-19 patients.

If the gowns are unavailable, clinical staff have been advised by the Department of Health to wear “disposable, non-fluid repellent gowns or coveralls” or “washable surgical gowns”, with aprons, and to wash their forearms afterwards.

It also says staff should consider reusing PPE where necessary if supplies are low.

But the changes to safety advice have sparked a storm of protest by healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, a plane carrying about 10 million face masks and other vital pieces of PPE has landed in Scotland after taking off from China.

Olympics chief executive and Treasury minister Paul Deighton has been appointed to lead a national effort to produce more essential PPE.

Ministers are comparing his appointment to that of Daily Express proprietor Lord Beaverbrook as minister of aircraft production by Winston Churchill on the eve of the Battle of Britain in May 1940 to galvanise the output of fighter planes.

The delayed delivery from Turkey is only a short-term emergency measure – and Lord Deighton’s task will be to spearhead moves to accelerate the manufacture of PPE in the UK in the longer term.

The government has also been accused of missing a series of opportunities to lessen the impact of the coronavirus in February and March.

According to an investigation by The Sunday Times, dire warnings were ignored from scientists – and the UK lost “a crucial five weeks in the fight to tackle the dangerous threat of coronavirus despite being in a perilously poor state of preparation for a pandemic”.

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