June 15, 2024

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UK secures just 30 of 30,000 extra coronavirus ventilators it needs

  • The UK has managed to secure just 30 new ventilators for delivery to the frontline of Britain’s health service next week after Boris Johnson’s government suggested they need at least another 30,000
  • It raises fears that the UK will be significantly under-equipped to deal with the increasing numbers of coronavirus patients who are being hospitalised.
  • The government said on Tuesday that the ‘first of thousands’ of ventilators were on its way but failed to specify exactly how many would be sent in the first delivery.
  • The UK is also under increasing pressure to explain why it has so far failed to roll out a mass testing regime for coronavirus in line with most other European countries, or even failed to test the vast majority of NHS staff. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The UK has managed to secure just 30 of the extra ventilators it needs next week to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, despite ministers suggesting that the UK needs at least 30,000 more.

The UK government announced plans this week to order 30,000 more ventilators from UK engineering firms who are repurposing their factories for the task, and the 30 new ventilators — called Penlon ventilator devices — are part of that batch. 

The UK has also ordered 8,000 ventilators from overseas to add to its existing stock of 8,000, meaning the UK is aiming to stock hospitals with 46,000 ventilators in total.

However, a Downing Street spokesman on Wednesday clarified that just 30 are currently confirmed to arrive next week, which falls tens of thousands short of the number of ventilators the UK is aiming to secure.

“I think we expect that first batch to be up to 30 ventilators, with hundreds more from that particular consortium to follow in the coming weeks,” the spokesperson said.

They insisted that there were “thousands more ventilators in the pipeline from other manufacturers and suppliers who are rapidly working on new devices,” but did not specify when they would be produced.

The scale of the shortfall was greeted with shock by one BBC newsreader on Wednesday, in a clip that quickly spread across social media.

The UK’s shortage of ventilators has grabbed international attention. On Tuesday Dr Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said the UK had a dangerously low number of ventilators.

“We are worried about groups all around the globe,” she said.

“I don’t know if you heard the report this morning, there are 8,000 ventilators in the UK.

“If you translate that to United States, that would be like the United States having less than 40,000 ventilators. We have five times that.”

Trump last week claimed that Boris Johnson pleaded with the president for the US to send ventilators to the UK.

“Before he even said hello, he said, ‘We need ventilators,'” Trump told reporters.

The continuing shortage comes as the UK death toll surpassed 2,000 on Wednesday, up 563 in just one day, and raises fears that the UK is significantly under-equipped to deal with the outbreak.

Multiple British newspapers on Thursday splashed on the continuing failure of the UK government to ramp up its testing regime for the coronavirus.

The UK is currently conducting testing less than 10,000 tests a day compared to 500,000 tests a week in Germany.

Hospitals on Wednesday said they had been forced to brew their own chemicals and beg for supplies from vets, according to a Times of London report.

The UK turned down EU medical help after Brexit

Boris Johnson Meets EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen


The UK government has been criticised for failing to take part in an EU scheme to secure ventilators, which Downing Street attempted to blame on a communication mix-up.

But a Guardian report on Thursday showed that officials from the UK, which remains a de facto EU member state, had taken part in several meetings in Brussels where procurement of medical equipment had been discussed.

The government is also under increasing pressure to explain why it has so far failed to roll out a mass testing regime for coronavirus in line with most other European countries, or even failed to test the vast majority of NHS staff. 

Reports from the Times of London newspaper and Buzzfeed News this week have suggested the government’s slow response to the virus was due to a belief in Downing Street that the virus could be “mitigated” through a herd immunity strategy.

The plan was abandoned after experts warned the government that it could result in up to 250,000 avoidable deaths, according to the government’s scientific advisers

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