Shelagh Fogarty 1pm - 4pm
British PPE equipment 'being shipped abroad' as NHS staff cry out for protection
20 April 2020, 23:21
Millions of pieces of PPE equipment are being shipped out of Britain and sold to EU countries, it has been reported.
UK manufacturers have told The Telegraph they have had "no choice" but to sell the items to Germany, Spain and Italy after the government ignored their offers of help.
The equipment is said to consist of masks, respirators and other lifesaving bits of kit, and is being shipped out in lorry loads to the other nations.
The news comes as the government faces increasingly angry calls for NHS staff to be given enough PPE to protect them from catching Covid-19 as they selflessly man the frontlines.
At least 100 healthcare workers in the UK have so far died, figures have shown.
But ministers have consistently claimed the shortage of PPE has been down to global supply chains being depleted.
But UK wholesalers have told the newspaper their warehouses are full of vital equipment purchased from China, which has now been bought by the EU countries for their own frontline workers.
A source claimed Veenak International, a Birmingham-based pharmaceutical wholesaler, shipped more than one million FFP2 masks and five million surgical masks abroad in the last week.
The company also has millions of pounds worth of other equipment laying unused in its warehouses, the source added.
Chief executive of the British Healthcare Trades Association, Dr Simon Festing, said "a number of our members" are continuing to sell PPE abroad after their offers of help were not answered by the government.
The details of the help was not made clear.
He added: "It’s an extremely difficult time for businesses and if they can’t supply to the UK then their commercial arrangements are likely to continue."
There have also been delays to PPE equipment being shipped into the UK from abroad.
Speaking at Monday's daily Downing Street press conference, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the UK had been delivered 140,000 gowns from Myanmar.
But on the same day a consignment of 84 tonnes, including 400,000 gowns, failed to arrive from Turkey as scheduled.
No reason has been revealed for the delay in delivery, although Turkish sources have said it is not down to any issues on their side.
RAF aircraft are understood to have left the UK to pick up the items themselves on Monday evening.
The news also comes after the government issued a furious rebuttal against a Sunday Times story which claimed the government had "missed the boat" on testing and securing PPE.