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UK's PPE industry revenue surpasses £8bn

A health worker wears PPE while administering a swab test to detect COVID-19. (Eyepix/SIPA USA/PA Images)
A health worker wears PPE while administering a swab test to detect COVID-19. Photo: Eyepix/SIPA USA/PA Images

Personal protective equipment (PPE) revenue in the UK has surpassed £8bn ($10.4bn), officially making the industry worth “more than sandwiches.”

Increased demand for PPE — including disposable gloves, aprons, gowns, surgical masks, respirators, visors, and goggles — as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen the sector surge in worth to now stand at an excess of £8.7bn in the UK annually, analysis by PPE manufacturer ViraxCare found.

Putting this in perspective, Britain’s sandwich industry was worth £8bn a year before the coronavirus crisis. “Overtaking a mainstay of British working life puts the scale of the sector’s growth in stark relief,” Viraxcare said.


READ MORE: Family firm with 16 staff awarded multi-million PPE contract

Other sectors PPE has surpassed include cyber security, which hit £8.3bn earlier this year, up 44% since 2017.

The UK government is responsible for providing PPE to frontline NHS workers. However, private social sector companies and care homes must source their own, and many businesses — especially in food and retail sectors — are also voluntarily providing employees with PPE.

“Almost overnight PPE has become ubiquitous. Never has an industry broadened so quickly, quite so urgently. The result is that its market has exploded, overtaking everyday items at a blistering pace,” said James Foster, CEO of ViraxCare.

READ MORE: UK Treasury extends VAT waiver on PPE until October

“Bosses have a lot to think about when employees return to work, including cleaning regimes, testing, and, of course, PPE. The most prepared companies will integrate those things into the daily lives of staff almost seamlessly, and the subscription model is going to be the key to that, particularly for SMEs.”

The UK government announced earlier this year that Britain has made deals with over 100 manufacturers of PPE, but it seems supply problems have not yet been solved, as research indicates a third of UK doctors have treated COVID-19 patients without PPE, with the UK having the second-highest rate of infections among doctors.

While surgical masks or respirators included as PPE should be “reserved for healthcare workers,” according to government guidelines, Brits are encouraged to wear face masks and coverings outside the home, with masks being a legal requirement in many indoor settings.