UK sent thousands of bits of PPE to China in February before virus ravaged Britain – but has got more sent back since

BRITAIN sent hundreds of thousands of PPE to China before the virus ravaged the country, but has got back even more protection since.

Downing Street admitted in February that it had shipped off thousands of  gloves, wipes and gowns to China to help them fight the outbreak.

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Just weeks later it has emerged that NHS hospitals are running out of long sleeved gowns as suppliers struggle to keep up with a global demand.

Instead they will have to use aprons, which don't cover up the body as much as full-length gowns.

And workers in care homes have said they can't get hold of enough either.

At least 56 NHS and healthcare workers have so far died from coronavirus, with many families blaming lack of personal protective equipment.

No10 said back in February: "We have supplied them with 1,800 goggles, 430,000 disposable gloves, 194,000 sanitising wipes, 37,500 medical gowns and 2,500 facemasks."

But Michael Gove said today that Britain has received many more bits of PPE (personal protective equipment) from China than it sent out in the first place.

The Cabinet Minister told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "We did send PPE to China, but it is important to stress…

"First, the PPE was to help with most extreme outbreak in Wuhan – that was not from our pandemic stock.

"Secondly, we have received far more from China in PPE than we have given.

"If you take that single fact, 'we’ve been running down stocks', you create a narrative, but it doesn’t do justice that the Chinese gov have responded very generously."

A huge shipment is due to arrive in the UK from Turkey today, but Sky News reports it has been delayed.

84 tonnes was set to be picked up by the RAF, but there has been a hold up.

Meanwhile, a plane carrying 10 million face masks and other vital pieces of PPE has landed in Scotland after taking off from China, Sky News said.

Olympics chief executive and Treasury minister Paul Deighton has been appointed as a new PPE tsar to make sure Britain is getting the vital supplies it needs.

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In a leaked email last week, seen by the Independent, a military liaison officer wrote to hospitals and other NHS trusts saying: "I can confirm that regions were informed that there will be no deliveries of gowns until 27 Apr and a sustainable level will not be reached until after mid-June."

He added: "My assessment is that most trusts will be out of stock after the weekend on current consumption."

In Friday's daily coronavirus briefing, Business Secretary Alok Sharma was asked about the reports.

He said: "I completely understand that people will be worried if there are shortages aware of supply issues that have been raised.

"It is a global supply issue – everyone is trying to get access to PPE.

"We are working night and day in terms of making sure we procure more PPE."

The Department of Health said: “We are working round the clock given the global shortage of gowns and other PPE to secure the NHS and the social care sector the equipment they need.#

“New clinical advice has been issued today to make sure that if there are shortages in one area, frontline staff know what PPE to wear instead to minimise risk.

“This has been reviewed by the Health and Safety Executive, and is in line with WHO and CDC guidance on PPE use in exceptional circumstances.

“There is a 24 hour NHS-run helpline where NHS and social care workers can call to report shortages in supply and it is crucial the relevant guidance for protective equipment is followed closely.”


There are three main options that can be considered as alternatives if gowns are not available:

·        Reserve disposable, fluid repellent gown/ coveralls for AGPs and surgical procedures

·        Disposable, non-fluid repellent gowns/ coveralls with a disposable plastic apron for high-risk settings and AGPs with forearm washing once gown/ coverall is removed

·        Reusable (washable) surgical gowns/ coveralls or similar suitable clothing (e.g. long-sleeved laboratory coat, long-sleeved patient gown, industrial coverall) with a disposable plastic apron for AGPs and high-risk settings with forearm washing once gown/ coverall is removed. These would need to be washed in a hospital laundry and capacity for hospital laundries may need to be increased.

Earlier on Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the UK was “tight on gowns” but 55,000 more were due to arrive.

He added: “I would love to be able to wave a magic wand and have PPE fall from the sky in large quantities and be able to answer your question about when shortages will be resolved.

“But given that we have a global situation in which there is less PPE in the world than the world needs, obviously it’s going to be a huge pressure point.”

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