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UK asks makers to build ventilators

TRANSPARENCY: The prime minister and senior officials are to hold daily televised briefings with medical advisers to explain the government’s response to the pandemic

British Prime Minister Johnson was yesterday to ask businesses to help build medical equipment, as he tried to reboot his COVID-19 strategy after the UK death toll rose to 35.

Amid criticism that they are not doing enough to tackle the crisis, Johnson and senior ministers are to hold daily televised briefings with medical advisers to explain the government’s response.

Plans are being drawn up for curbing some everyday activities and asking people older than 70 to stay home, potentially for months.

Johnson was to hold a call with manufacturers, including Unipart Group, to urge them to make ventilators for the National Health Service.

He was to promise to buy as many of the ventilators as the companies, including automakers, can produce, officials said. The government is also in talks with private hospitals to buy up bed space

to increase capacity.

“Preparing for the spread of the coronavirus outbreak is a national priority and we’re calling on the manufacturing industry and all those with relevant expertise who might be able to help to come

together to help,” Johnson’s office said in a statement. “We need to step up production of vital equipment, such as ventilators, so that we can all help the most vulnerable, and we need businesses

to come to us and help in this national effort.”

The UK has been criticized for not following other countries that have shut schools and banned large gatherings to stop the spread of the disease. Its response so far has centered on personal

hygiene, self-isolation of those who think they are sick, and tracing and testing those who had contact with people who tested positive.

Defending the government’s approach, British Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said that ministers were being led by their scientific and medical advisers, adding that the outbreak

was not yet as advanced as in other European countries.

The UK has “just been in a slightly different stage, obviously compared to places like Italy, but also a little behind where France and Germany are,” Shapps told Sky News. “It’s not that we’re not

going to get there, but our responses, of course, are timed in a different way unique to the particular stage of this that we’re in in the UK.”

Johnson’s team also came under fire for not being open enough about its plans after favored media outlets were briefed about the details rather than information being made publicly available.

“I cannot say this strongly enough: Ministers need to stop anonymously briefing journalists and start speaking directly to the public,” Gavin Barwell, who was chief of staff to Johnson’s

predecessor, Theresa May, said on Twitter. “Trust in government is going to be vital during the difficult months ahead and it is best fostered by transparency, not off the record briefing.”

The number of deaths rose to 35 on Sunday, compared with 21 a day earlier, according to data released by the UK Department of Health and Social Care. A total of 1,372 had tested positive for the

disease, compared with 1,140 on Saturday, it said.

The government said it is working to help companies hit by the crisis after Virgin Atlantic said the airline industry needed support as much as £7.5 billion (US$9.22 billion) if it is to cope with

global travel restrictions.

Ministers are to introduce proposed emergency laws to parliament this week to enable them to take action to control the outbreak.

The laws are to include powers to ban large gatherings and reinforce regulations allowing people to be quarantined if they are judged to be a risk to the public.

 

News source: Bloomberg