LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Tuesday it had agreed deals with more than 100 new suppliers of personal protective equipment (PPE) used to combat the spread of the coronavirus, addressing supply problems seen earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government has faced heavy criticism from health workers who said they were not always provided with the right equipment and did not feel safe. The government has acknowledged problems with distribution and sourcing sufficient supplies in a competitive international market.
“We have now ordered 2 billion pieces of PPE from homegrown firms, which is also great news for jobs and the economy, and over 3 billion pieces from abroad,” health minister Matt Hancock said in a statement.
The deals, some of which had already been announced, include the purchase of 70 million face masks from Honeywell and 14,000 visors per week from Jaguar Land Rover.
The government said that since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, more than 1.48 billion items of PPE had been delivered to frontline health and care workers in England, along with tens of millions of items in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
At the government’s daily news conference earlier on Tuesday, Hancock said the new supply lines would also allow the government to replenish its PPE stockpiles.
(Reporting by William James, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)