Britain, where 144 people with COVID-19 have died so far, has a
shortage of ventilators which can save the lives of those who
develop complications after contracting the virus. The UK's existing
stock of around 5,000-8,000 ventilators is inadequate.
Given such an acute shortage in a country with a population of 67
million, the government scrambled to ask top engineering companies
to retool their production to make ventilators.
"More than half a dozen companies have already made one in
prototype, to check with us that we are happy with the quality,"
health minister Matt Hancock said.
Hancock said he hoped the new ventilators would be approved for use
in hospitals by the end of next week.
"I would be surprised if it was longer than then," he said.
A source familiar with the manufacturing situation told Reuters that
the prototype would be available next week with manufacturing to
start in 4 weeks time.
British companies have formed three teams, led by aerospace engineer
Meggitt <MGGT.L> and carmakers McLaren and Nissan <7201.T> to pursue
the rapid production of ventilators. European planemaker Airbus <AIR.PA>
has offered help with 3D technology and facilities if other
companies need it.
"It's unbelievable. In a matter of days some of these top
engineering companies have already turned their hand to this effort
and already got their prototypes out," Hancock said. "We need as
many as you can possibly make and we will buy them."
Britain faces a "massive shortage" of ventilators that will be
needed to treat critically ill patients suffering from coronavirus,
after it failed to invest enough in intensive care equipment, a
leading ventilator manufacturer said.
Estimates of the potential death toll in the United Kingdom range
from a around 20,000 to over 250,000 or even more. As of March 19,
64,621 people have been tested in the UK, of which 61,352 were
confirmed negative and 3,269 were confirmed positive.
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Britain casts its National Health Service, which offers healthcare free at the
point of use for everyone from cradle to grave, as one of its greatest national
achievements. Some doctors say it should be better funded and managed.
Britain has asked 65,000 former nurses and doctors to return to work and will
deploy final-year medical students and student nurses to fight the coronavirus
health crisis, the health ministry said.
"We canít do it alone, so I am urging all recent former nurses to lend us your
expertise and experience during this pandemic, because I have no doubt that you
can help to save lives," said Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council is writing out to more than 50,000 nurses
whose registration has lapsed in the last three years. The General Medical
Council will write to another 15,500 doctors who have left the register since
Britain's health service is freeing up 30,000 beds by postponing non-urgent
operations and providing care in the community for those who are fit to be
discharged, and finding up to 10,000 in independent and community hospitals, the
health service said.
Hancock also said 150 trucks were being sent to 150 hospitals, about half of all
those in the country, to provide more protective equipment such as masks and
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Kate Holton and Sarah Young; Editing by Michael
Holden and Peter Graff)
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