U.K. Government ‘Too Slow’ on Ventilator Shortage, Report Says

The U.K. government lost a “crucial month” in its fight against coronavirus because it was slow to respond to a shortage of ventilators, the House of Commonsspending watchdog found.

Ministers only started efforts to buy more ventilators on March. 3, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared the pandemic apublic health emergency, the Public Accounts Committee said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a separate report by theNational Audit Office, the body that scrutinizes public spending, found that the U.K. was too slow to source personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.

Government stockpiles of PPE were intended for an influenza pandemic and weren’t adequate for the Covid-19 outbreak, forcing ministers to pay “very high prices” for new kit — much of which was not received in time for the first wave, the NAO said.

The two reports pile pressure on Boris Johnson’s government over its handling of the pandemic. With over 55,000 deaths from Covid-19, the U.K. has one of thehighest mortality rates in the world.

The PAC said it recognized the “significant achievement” of securing an extra 26,000 ventilators between March and early August. But chair Meg Hillier said this came about “much more by luck than design” and the government “incredibly had no plan for sourcing critical care equipment in an international emergency.”

On concerns raised over PPE, Health MinisterJo Churchill said the government had set up “robust and resilient supply chains from scratch” and would provide a “continuous supply to our amazing frontline workers” over the coming months.

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