Minister: First of Thousands of New Ventilators to Be Delivered to NHS Next Week

This picture taken on March 16, 2020 during a press presentation of the hospitalisation service for future patients with coronavirus at Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, shows the director of the epidemics service Dr Karina Glick checking a medical ventilator control panel at …
JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove announced that the first of thousands of new ventilators will be rolling off of production lines this weekend and will be sent to NHS hospitals next week.

The National Health Service has only 8,000 ventilators and needs some 30,000 more. The British government has secured orders for 61,000 ventilators as an “insurance policy”, according to a report in The Guardian, of which 30,000 will be brand new.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster led the daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday and said that the British government is buying more ventilators from abroad, including from the European Union. Aware of the massive shortfall, Mr Gove said that that is “also why we are developing new sources of supply at home”.

The senior minister continued: “Before the epidemic struck, we had very little domestic manufacture of ventilators. But now, thanks to the dedication of existing medical supply companies and the ingenuity of our manufacturing base, we have existing models being produced in significantly greater numbers and new models coming on stream.

“Orders have been placed with consortia [Ventilator Challenge UK] led by Ford, Airbus, the Formula One racing teams including McLaren, GKN Aerospace and Rolls Royce, and Dyson.

“This weekend, the first thousands of new ventilator devices will roll off the production line and be delivered to the NHS next week. From there, they will be rapidly distributed to the front line.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak also announced today that the UK would waive import taxes on ventilators and other medical equipment such as mouth-nose masks, protective medical gowns, and coronavirus testing kits.

“Waiving import taxes on vital medical equipment such as ventilators will speed up and increase the supply of critical items going to our frontline health workers,” Mr Sunak said.

The country saw the single highest increase in coronavirus fatalities, with 381 dying on Monday — more than double the casualties from the day before (180), bringing the total death toll to 1,789. Overall, 143,186 people have been tested for coronavirus, and of those, 25,150 tested positive. Dr Jenny Harries, NHS England’s medical director, said however that there had been a “little bit of a plateau” in cases, but warned that the UK is not “out of the woods” yet.

Mr Gove said that there was no fixed date for when the peak of the coronavirus will hit in the UK, but experts in the recent past have put it in around two weeks.

It is hoped that with consortia and individual companies working on British-designed and produced ventilators that domestic supplies can keep up with the projected demand. Dyson alone has said that it can provide 10,000 CoVent ventilators for the UK, plus an additional 5,000 to be donated overseas. Ventilator Challenge UK can produce 15,000, and 8,000 have been ordered from abroad.

Sagentia, a subsidiary of the Cambridge-based Science Group, has engineered a prototype which it says should be easier to produce because it is not dependent on imported components. Martyn Ratcliffe, Science Group’s chairman, said Sagentia’s designs represented the “best of British engineering”.

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