LONDON/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A delivery of protective equipment for British health workers that was due on Sunday from Turkey has been delayed, a British government official said, as medics on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak increasingly report shortages of gear.
Ministers had on Saturday highlighted an 84-tonne consignment that was due to arrive from Turkey containing personal protective equipment (PPE), including 400,000 protective gowns.
A British foreign office spokesperson cited “clearance and paperwork” for the delay, first reported by Sky News.
“It’s not quite ready yet,” the official said, adding that they were “working to get this delivered as soon as possible”.
With hospitals under strain, health workers have criticised the government’s advice that PPE worn while treating patients infected with coronavirus could be re-used, as supplies run low across the country.
Helena McKeown, chair of the British Medical Association which represents doctors, told Sky News the delay would be “devastating” news for health professionals.
Britain is at or near the peak of a health crisis in which more than 15,000 people have died in hospitals alone – the fifth highest national death toll of a pandemic linked to at least 150,000 deaths worldwide.
The true toll is likely to be substantially higher as data on deaths in the community, such as in care homes, takes much longer to trickle in.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce in London and Dominic Evans in Istanbul; Editing by Alex Richardson)