UK ministers under fire over ventilator delays

Boris Johnson’s government was criticized on Friday for missing opportunities to acquire more medical ventilators from equipment suppliers and the EU, even though the British Prime Minister himself was positive for the coronavirus.

Mr. Johnson isolates himself on Downing Street with only mild symptoms and will continue to lead the government. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also tested positive, while Chris Witty, the chief medical officer, is homebound after showing symptoms compatible with the virus.

The number of people who tested positive in the UK increased from 2,885 to 14,579 while the number of deaths increased from 181 to 759. The rates of increase suggest that Britain is following a similar path to Italy. and Spain, the most affected countries in Europe, which registered 969 and 769 deaths just on Friday, the deadliest day so far.

Ministers say 8,000 fans on order are expected to be available to NH in the coming weeks. The UK health service already has access to over 8,000 ventilators and a total of 30,000 are needed.

Several companies have complained that offers have not been accepted to provide some of the additional machines needed to save the lives of people with acute breathing difficulties caused by Covid-19.

They could probably have had 500 ventilators if they contacted me immediately, “Andrew Financial, managing director of MEC Medical, a manufacturer of ventilation components, told The Financial Times. “They missed the boat.”

The European Commission has rejected the UK’s claims that an “initial communication problem” with Brussels meant that Britain had not participated in the EU joint procurement of fans, insisting on the fact that the UK was fully aware of the plans.

Ministers are already being criticized for the slow deployment of coronavirus testing for doctors and patients and for past problems in providing protective equipment for medical staff.

With medical equipment suppliers from around the world overwhelmed by orders, the UK government has encouraged the development of new ventilators, increased production of UK-made models, and imports from abroad.

But device manufacturers feel they have been sidelined in favor of large, inexperienced manufacturers and untested models. Dyson received a government order this week for 10,000 fans designed from scratch, subject to regulatory testing.

Another company, which asked not to be named, said it had written to the business department early last week to offer to supply hundreds of fans for $ 15,000 each, but had received no reply.

“My concern is that the government’s actions do not match their words,” said an executive. “Matt Hancock said,” If you produce a fan, we will buy it. ” Instead, the criteria seems to be “if you can develop a new fan in the UK, we will buy it”. “

A separate proposal that could have supplied the NHS with up to 25,000 fans from China went unanswered until it was too late, according to two companies behind.

Direct Access said it contacted officials for the first time on March 16 with a plan to secure slots of 5,000 machines per week, which it designed with Dubai-based Topland General Trading as reported the Nantwich News for the first time.

“If faster action had been taken when we first contacted the customer, we would now have provided up to 15,000 fans and 10,000 more in the next two weeks,” said Andy Faulkner, owner of Topland. “And yet there are currently none on order with delivery times of two to three months.”

The committee said that common European procurement plans – which had been publicly announced a few weeks ago – had been clearly defined for Britain and other governments.

A spokesperson for the committee: “Member States’ needs for personal protective equipment have been discussed on several occasions during meetings of the health security committee, in which the United Kingdom has participated.

“During these meetings, the commission stressed its willingness to continue helping countries to buy medical countermeasures if necessary; the Member States and the United Kingdom have therefore had the opportunity to express their interest in participating in any common market. “

British references to communication problems have left officials in Brussels puzzled. The joint purchase plans have been publicly highlighted by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other senior officials from Brussels in recent weeks to show how the bloc is helping countries to tackle the crisis.

Brussels claims that the centralized process has the advantage of reducing the cost of purchases thanks to grouped orders. It also reduces the pressure on overburdened national administrations.

Von der Leyen said this week that the first call for tenders, which focused on protective equipment and brought together 25 countries, had led to “concrete offers of considerable scale as soon as possible”.

“It is the solidarity of the EU in action. This shows that being a member of the union pays off, ”she said.

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