Prime Minister Boris Jonson is asking British manufacturers to switch their production lines to start mass-producing ventilators, as the nation faces a shortage of the critical machines in the event of a large-scale coronavirus outbreak.
In a move unseen in the United Kingdom since the Second World War, the Prime Minister has called on manufacturers such as Rolls Royce, JCB, and Unipart to start mass-producing ventilators in what is being dubbed a “national effort” to confront the threats posed by the Wuhan coronavirus.
The are joining Mr Johnson on a conference in which he will stress the “vital role” that British manufactures must play in combatting the pandemic, according to The Telegraph.
The chief executive of the National Health Service (NHS) said that the government-run healthcare system will need “every part of society and every industry to ask what they can do to help the effort.”
On Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the NHS currently has around 5,000 ventilators, but added that the government will likely need “many times more” — well over 100,000, according to some reports — to cope with the outbreak.
“If you produce a ventilator, then we will buy it. No number is too high,” he told Sky News.
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The ventilator machines are crucial in the treatment of the coronavirus. Patients’ lungs are filled with sticky mucus that prevents them from breathing on their own, post-mortem examinations of Chinese people who have died from the virus have revealed.
Countries across Europe are struggling to cope with ventilator shortages. Italy, the country most affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, told its only manufacturer of the machines to quadruple its monthly output, going so far as to send members of the military to help meet the new demand.
Gianluca Preziosa, the managing director Siare Engineering, said that the company has cancelled all orders from abroad and will now solely produce ventilators for Italy.
“All of a sudden, we found ourselves facing an operation of titanic proportions: we had to produce in a couple of months what this company would normally produce in two years,” Mr Preziosa said per the Financial Times.
Germany has placed an order for 10,000 ventilators from Draegerwerk, a German medical technology company. The order from the government is the largest in the history of the company and is equal to the entire output the company produces in a year.
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Johnson’s government will also step up its “war” on the coronavirus by deploying the Royal Logistic Corps of the British Army to guard hospitals and supermarkets ravaged by customers panic buying toilet roll and other supplies.
Soldiers with training in biological and chemical warfare will also start to deep-clean empty public buildings should they be needed to be converted into hospitals or morgues, a defence source told the Daily Mail.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock compared the fight against the coronavirus to the hardship Britons endured during the Blitz, writing that Britain “must all do everything in our power to tackle this virus.”
“Our generation has never been tested like this. Our grandparents were, during the Second World War, when our cities were bombed during the Blitz. Despite the pounding every night, the rationing, the loss of life, they pulled together in one gigantic national effort. Today our generation is facing its own test, fighting a very real and new disease,” Hancock wrote.
So far there have been 21 deaths and a total of over 1,140 confirmed cases of the Wuhan virus in Britain — but infectious disease specialist and University College London professor Francois Balloux believes that up to 20 million people could become infected with the coronavirus by the summer.
“In the absence of intervention, I would expect between 20 to 30 per cent of the population will be infected by the summer,” Professor Balloux warned.
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