Speaking at the daily Number 10 press conference on coronavirus on Sunday, Dr Harries said the UK “has been an international exemplar in preparedness”. She added: “So the fact that there is a pandemic stockpile is considered a very high-quality mark of a prepared country in international terms.” But ITV Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan branded the claim “deluded nonsense” as he blasted Dr Harries for her remarks.
He added: “There is our chief medical officer saying we are an example to the world when our death rate is going to be comfortably the worst in Europe and probably the worst in the world.”
Anger over lack of supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS workers is growing as a desperately needed consignment of 400,000 gowns was delayed.
The Government has been under increasing pressure to ensure the safety of frontline health staff and one leading NHS figure revealed his “bitter experience” of the lack of basic items such as gowns in recent weeks.
The number of hospital deaths of people who tested positive for COVID-19 passed 16,000, with a further 596 announced on Sunday. The figure does not include those who died in care homes.
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The Government scheme for workers who have been furloughed – given a temporary leave of absence – opened today and Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £1.25 billion package to aid companies in the innovation sector.
And Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said there was no set date for pupils to go back to schools in England, as he ruled out opening them over the summer holidays.
However, worries over the lack of PPE remained a dominant issue, as a much-anticipated shipment of 84 tonnes, including 400,000 gowns, failed to arrive from Turkey as scheduled.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers said: “We have, over the last 24 hours, seen an unhelpful focus on one individual consignment coming from Turkey.
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“We are told that this consignment is still stuck in Turkey with no certainty, at the time this comment was issued, on how many gowns, if any, will leave for the UK, (and) when.
“Given the current uncertainties over gown manufacture and supply, due to global shortages, we suggest that any future announcements on what gowns might be available for delivery, when, just focus on what we can be certain of.
“Bitter experience in recent weeks has shown that promised consignments of gowns cannot be relied on until they come, are checked and found to contain the right kit.
“For example, a consignment of 200,000 gowns that arrived from China last week actually contained only 20,000 gowns. This follows previous instances of consignments of gowns being mislabelled and failing safety tests.”
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Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: “We made it clear weeks ago that we need to do something about the likelihood of a lack of protective equipment.”
Claudia Paoloni, president of the doctors’ union HCSA, said: “Our NHS workers are going above and beyond on a daily basis to heal. They should expect at the very least adequate protection to keep them fit and well to engage in this fight.
“Yet instead they are being asked to sacrifice themselves due to the failings of others.”
Mr Williamson told the daily Downing Street press conference: “What we’ve seen over the last few months is an enormous effort, it’s a national effort, but it’s also an international effort to secure PPE from right around the globe, but we’ve seen so many brilliant British businesses repurpose themselves in order to be able to provide it.”
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