Coronavirus: Minister ‘confident’ delayed shipment of protective equipment will arrive today

A minister has said he is “confident” a flight carrying 84 tonnes of personal protective equipment for the NHS will depart from Turkey “later on this afternoon”.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden provided the update to Sky News as questions continue to be raised about the provision of PPE to workers on the front line of the fight against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The shipment, which includes 400,000 surgical gowns, was due to arrive on Sunday but was held up.

Mr Dowden said the delay was due to “logistical challenges” at the Turkish end.

Cabinet colleague Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, 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.

For critics of the government, the delay was seen as emblematic of a failure to ensure adequate supplies.

Ministers have blamed enormous worldwide demand for items such as masks and gowns for shortages, but have pledged to do all they can to replenish supplies.

Doctors and nurses were advised to reuse pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) ahead of expected shortages at the weekend – even if they are labelled as single-use.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association, said the organisation had “made it clear weeks ago” to the government that something needed to be done about the “likelihood of a lack of protective equipment”.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, suggested the existence of the shipment from Turkey should only have been revealed once it had landed in the UK.

“Given the current uncertainties over gown manufacture and supply due to global shortages, we suggest that any future announcements on what gowns might be available for delivery, when, just focus on what we can be certain of,” he said.

“Bitter experience in recent weeks has shown that promised consignments of gowns cannot be relied on until they come, are checked and found to contain the right kit.

“For example, a consignment of 200,000 gowns that arrived from China last week actually contained only 20,000 gowns.

“This follows previous instances of consignments of gowns being mislabelled and failing safety tests.”

Dr Claudia Paoloni, president of the doctors’ union HCSA, said NHS workers were going “above and beyond” on a daily basis.

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