Vital 84-tonne PPE delivery from Turkey to UK for NHS coronavirus medics is delayed and will not arrive today

A HUGE military airlift that was set to deliver vital personal protective equipment for hero health workers today has been delayed.

RAF jets were supposed to be flying in 400,000 gowns – part of 84 tonnes of PPE – from an airbase in Turkey.

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The source of the delay is not yet known, but it is understood the RAF were ready to transport the equipment, Sky News reported.

The delay comes as medics were told to treat coronavirus patients in flimsy plastic aprons over gowns.

Around 150,000 gowns a day needed for NHS staff.

Public Health England changed its advice on Friday to allow reuse of gowns that is normally single-use only or even wear white lab coats and wash them afterwards.

A source with knowledge of the plan said: "The new guidance will say 'this is what you do if you don't have any gowns'. Wear an apron instead – that will be the new policy for the foreseeable future, though the medical organisations will go mad about that."

At least 60 NHS and healthcare workers have so far died from coronavirus, with many families blaming a lack of PPE.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told yesterday's briefing: "They should be assured we are doing everything we can correct this issue, and to get them the equipment that they need."

When pressed on the issue, Mr Jenrick added: "Supply in some areas, particularly gowns and certain types of masks and aprons, is in short supply at the moment, and that must be an extremely anxious time for people working on the front line, but they should be assured that we are doing everything we can to correct this issue, and to get them the equipment that they need."

A "sustainable" level of gowns will not be reached until mid-June.

A military liaison officer wrote to hospitals and other NHS trusts saying: "I can confirm that regions were informed that there will be no deliveries of gowns until 27 Apr and a sustainable level will not be reached until after mid-June."

He added: "My assessment is that most trusts will be out of stock after the weekend on current consumption."

Panicked ministers have drafted in the boss of the 2012 London Olympics to be a PPE czar.

Lord Paul Deighton will take charge of scaling up production and co-ordinating distribution.

Top-end firms including Burberry, Barbour, Louis Vuitton and Philip Treacy have all said their manufacturing equipment could be used in the effort.

Shadow health minister Justin Madders said the amount of key workers still without protective equipment was a "scandal".

"Workers have been sounding the alarm for weeks now and the Government has had months to put things in place," he said.

"It is outrageous that supplies keep running so low, protecting those staff who are risking their lives every time they go to work should be an absolute priority.

"Ministers need to make good on their promises, sort out the supply issues and work to make sure no staff member feels unsafe because of a lack of PPE. It is no good making grand promises if they later turn out to be undeliverable."




There are three main options that can be considered as alternatives if gowns are not available:

·        Reserve disposable, fluid repellent gown/ coveralls for AGPs and surgical procedures

·        Disposable, non-fluid repellent gowns/ coveralls with a disposable plastic apron for high-risk settings and AGPs with forearm washing once gown/ coverall is removed

·        Reusable (washable) surgical gowns/ coveralls or similar suitable clothing (e.g. long-sleeved laboratory coat, long-sleeved patient gown, industrial coverall) with a disposable plastic apron for AGPs and high-risk settings with forearm washing once gown/ coverall is removed. These would need to be washed in a hospital laundry and capacity for hospital laundries may need to be increased.

On Friday Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the UK was "tight on gowns".

He added: "I would love to be able to wave a magic wand and have PPE fall from the sky in large quantities and be able to answer your question about when shortages will be resolved.

"But given that we have a global situation in which there is less PPE in the world than the world needs, obviously it’s going to be a huge pressure point."

The Royal College of Nursing said half of nursing staff, including those in the most high-risk environments, have felt pressured into working without proper PPE.

They are reusing kit, are short of alcohol rub and wearing eye protection they have bought or made at home.

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Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "These figures unmask the gut-wrenching shortages nursing staff are dealing with in all health care settings.

"It is little wonder they are in such fear for their own safety and that of their patients.

"This crisis is taking the lives of nursing staff, and their colleagues feel they’ve been left exposed.

"All decision makers involved here need to get an urgent grip on the situation.

"Nursing staff just want to do their jobs – they must be given protection in order to do so."


It comes as the UK recorded another 888 coronavirus deaths on Saturday, taking the total number of hospital deaths to 15,464.

In response, The Department of Health said: "We are working round the clock given the global shortage of gowns and other PPE to secure the NHS and the social care sector the equipment they need.

"New clinical advice has been issued today to make sure that if there are shortages in one area, frontline staff know what PPE to wear instead to minimise risk.

"This has been reviewed by the Health and Safety Executive, and is in line with WHO and CDC guidance on PPE use in exceptional circumstances.

"There is a 24 hour NHS-run helpline where NHS and social care workers can call to report shortages in supply and it is crucial the relevant guidance for protective equipment is followed closely."

Join our George Cross campaign for NHS staff

SUN readers are today urged to sign a petition calling for our NHS staff to be awarded the George Cross.

Yesterday, we backed a proposal by Lord Ashcroft to honour our health heroes with the gallantry gong given for acts of bravery that did not take place in battle.

A No10 spokesman said: “The NHS is doing a fantastic job and the nation will want to find a way to say thank you when we have defeated this virus.”

SAS hero Andy McNab added: “The award of a George Cross would show an emotional appreciation.”

We are asking readers to sign the petition online at



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