By Elizabeth Howcroft

LONDON (Reuters) – The Royal Mint, the world’s largest maker and supplier of coins, said on Friday it has started manufacturing visors for Britain’s medical staff to protect them from coronavirus.

Engineers at the Mint created the visors after finding a basic design online and developing medically approved prototypes within 48 hours at their production site in Wales.

The first visors are already in use at a hospital in Wales and mass production will start on Saturday morning, with several hundred coming on the first day and increasing numbers after that.

The Mint says it can produce thousands of visors per day if it can get enough parts and is now appealing to manufacturers across the UK to help it source enough clear plastic, which is currently in short supply.

The simple design comprises a clear plastic shield which covers the worker’s face, held in place by a piece of elastic.

Britain’s publicly funded national health service, the NHS, has received much public support during the coronavirus outbreak, with government health authorities adopting the slogan “Stay Home, Protect The NHS, Save Lives”.

People all over the country took to their balconies and doorsteps on Thursday evening to applaud health workers who are battling the spread of the coronavirus.

“My sister works for the NHS and it really focuses your mind on the challenges they are facing,” said Leighton John, director of operations at the Royal Mint.

“We set our engineers the task of developing essential medical equipment which could be easily made on site – within seven hours they’d created a medical visor, and within 48 hours it was approved for mass manufacture,” John said.

As the virus sweeps the country, the Mint is the latest in a number of companies taking on new operations as part of a nationwide effort to support the NHS.

Vacuum cleaner company Dyson was recruited to supply hospitals with 10,000 medical ventilators designed at breakneck speed ahead of an expected surge of cases, and outsourcer Capita announced on Friday it was working with the government to provide coronavirus testing sites.

(Editing by Stephen Addison)