Manchester Mayor reveals huge barriers stopping them importing PPE

23 April 2020, 14:07 | Updated: 23 April 2020, 14:41

By Adrian Sherling

The Mayor of Manchester revealed he bought half a million facemasks to protect NHS staff from coronavirus - but they were held up by customs red tape.

Andy Burnham told LBC that "sharp" business practices and UK bureaucracy has been holding up his attempts to bring in PPE to the country.

Manchester has a health devolution agreement, meaning they have more independence in how the health service works in the region.

While they've had success bringing in millions of items, he revealed the difficulties they had with facemasks.

He said: "We brought in a million masks to Greater Manchester. This isn't us just looking after ourselves. By purchasing ourselves, we can take the pressure off the national stockpile.

"Items that would have cost a few pence all of a sudden were costing pounds. There's been some real sharp practices, I'm afraid.

Andy Burnham told LBC of the nightmare he has had importing facemasks
Andy Burnham told LBC of the nightmare he has had importing facemasks. Picture: PA

"Also, being gazumped at the last minute by other European countries. It's been a hard thing - deals being done in airports and then reneged upon.

"We haven't always been helped by the bureaucracy. We had half a million masks come into Heathrow last week and they were there all weekend, then Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday until they finally arrived yesterday.

"That was border bureaucracy which stood in the way of that, which is madness at this time."

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