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Manufacturers told to make ventilators as UK faces short supply

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The Government will ask manufacturers to retool production to focus on ventilators and other medical equipment desperately needed by the NHS as the spread of coronavirus ramps up.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the NHS needs ventilators now more than anything else and engineers have already been tasked with drawing up plans to quickly boost domestic production.

Such moves have already taken place in China, where 10,000 companies who make everything from whisky to spaceship parts have adapted their factories to focus on products that have been in short supply since the outbreak.

With supply chains struggling and global demand for hand sanitiser and other relevant products rising, making more of these commodities in the UK will allow it to reduce its reliance on other countries who are going through the same crisis.

Britain has taken a distinctly different approach to tackling coronavirus from European countries such as Italy, Spain and France which have imposed stringent lockdowns to try to slow the spread of the disease.

“The Prime Minister will speak to British manufacturers including Unipart Group to ask them to support production of essential medical equipment for the NHS,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“He will stress the vital role of Britain’s manufacturers in preparing the country for a significant spread of coronavirus and call on them to step up and support the nationwide effort to fight the virus.”

Unipart Group declined further comment. Boris Johnson is due to give a news conference later today.

“We’ve got high quality engineering in this country and we want anybody who has the manufacturing capability to turn to a manufacturer of ventilators to do that,” Hancock said on Sunday.

“We start with around 5,000 ventilators, we think we need many times more than that, and we are saying if you produce a ventilator then we will buy it.”

Hancock said there had been an “enthusiastic response” to the government’s request for factories to aid in the production of additional ventilators.

Labour MP Jess Phillips said a “couple” of the factories in her Birmingham Yardley constituency had been “in touch to offer help”.

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