THE UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, says that getting PPE for NHS staff is a “challenge” as a promised Turkish shipment of protective gowns failed to arrive again.
The gowns were promised to arrive yesterday (April 19), but despite cabinet ministers taking to the airways to trumpet their late arrival, NHS workers crying out for the vital PPE gear were let down for the second time in two days.
Sunak was at the podium for the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing, and did bring some good news that the UK had today unloaded 140,000 gowns from Myanmar.
“The government is working hard to get the PPE that NHS staff need and we are receiving shipments of PPE regularly,” the Chancellor said.
He added that the government is “working to resolve the Turkish shipment” following unexpected delays, and that they are continuing to pursue “every possible option” for procurement.
Sunak said that the UK has now carried out 501,379 tests for coronavirus, with 19,316 tests carried out yesterday.
“A total of 124,743 people have tested positive for the virus, 17,971 people are in hospital with coronavirus in the UK and 16,509 who were in hospital with coronavirus have sadly died.”
The UK government has promised it will dramatically increase coronavirus testing to 100,000 a day by the end of the month.
On the economy, Sunak said that more than 140,000 firms had applied for grants from the UK government’s job retention scheme which opened today.
“The grants they receive will help pay the wages of more than a million people,” he promised, as the government aims to keep as many workers
Deputy chief scientific adviser Angela Maclean said the public has “responded” well to the government’s call for social distancing, with overall travel down by 80 per cent of what it was in February.
“While there was a rise in road, rail and bus trips over the Easter weekend, travel patterns quickly returned to pre-Easter lockdown levels afterwards and have been maintained since then,” Maclean commented.
Over new coronavirus infection trends, she said that Monday’s figure of 4,676 was the lowest for four days and some way below the peak on April 5.
She suggested that the figures are “flattening out” and are stable.