The UK government has signed contracts with firms to manufacture 2 billion items of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the country, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday.
“We’ve been working hard to build our supplies of personal protective equipment,” Hancock said, noting that domestic production had been dramatically ramped up in recent weeks.
The government has also signed deals with over 100 suppliers across the world, including contracts for as many as 3.7 billion gloves.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the issue of PPE for healthcare workers has become one of the defining issues of the crisis.
While frontline workers in healthcare settings should wear an apron, gloves, a face mask, and eye protection, the country has struggled to source supplies.
“I have been completely open about the scale and difficulties of this challenge,” Hancock said during the government’s daily coronavirus media briefing.
Speaking last month, the chief of the British Armed Forces, General Sir Nick Carter, said that the coronavirus crisis was the “the single greatest logistic challenge” the military had ever faced.
The military has been helping with the distribution of PPE to frontline services across the country.
“We’ve ramped up domestic production. I can announce that we have now signed contracts to manufacture two billion items of PPE here in the UK,” Hancock said on Tuesday.
“While we continue to improve the logistics and work hard to get everyone the PPE that they need, these new supplies mean that we’re not simply keeping up with demand. We are now able to begin to replenish our stockpiles,” he said.
“There is a lot further to go on PPE as there is on so many things. But we have made significant progress and I’d like to thank everybody involved.
“PPE, of course, is so important, because it’s about protecting the people who protect us — and we’ll do that for as long as the virus remains on these shores.”
There were 134 new deaths from coronavirus reported as of 5pm on Monday (25 May), Hancock noted, bringing the total number of deaths to 37,048.
Some 265,227 people have tested positive for coronavirus as of 9pm on Tuesday, an increase of 2,004 on the previous day.