Coronavirus: Government has hit only 13% of ventilator target

The government has fallen well short of the number of ventilators it planned to immediately add to the UK’s stocks to treat coronavirus patients. 

An additional 200 machines – which provide oxygen for people suffering lung failure in severe COVID-19 cases – have been sent out to the NHS in the past week, Downing Street said on Monday.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock had vowed that around 1,500 ventilators would be acquired in that time frame.

Ministers have come under pressure to explain how they intend to “ramp up” key measures to battle coronavirus – including the number of ventilators and daily tests.

So far, more than 11,000 people in the UK have died with COVID-19.

And a member of the government’s scientific advice committee has warned the UK could end up being the “worst affected country in Europe”.

On Sunday 5 April, Mr Hancock said the UK had between 9,000 and 10,000 ventilators – with an extra 2,000 spare attached to critical care beds – but he had set a target of 18,000.

Challenged on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show to say how many more ventilators would be rolled out in the following week, he said “there should be another 1,500”.

Just over a week later, the prime minister’s spokesman confirmed only 200 extra machines have been added to the total stocks – around 13% of Mr Hancock’s target.

Lots of countries are trying to source the machines, making it difficult for governments to buy them up.

Ministers have also set a target of raising the daily number of tests for COVID-19 to 100,000 by the end of April.

In the latest update on Monday the UK department of health said there were 10,745 tests – taking the total to 290,720 since the outbreak began.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said there had been “significant progress” in the attempt to improve testing of frontline NHS workers, with nearly 43,000 staff and their families tested so far.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove announced at the start of April there would be thousands of new ventilators produced in Britain.

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