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Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said the shortage of personal protective equipment was a “disgrace” as she urged the government to use smaller UK manufacturers to source items.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she had been “inundated” with manufacturers who have contacted the government offering to make PPE but have heard nothing back.
“There are many, many businesses around the country who have perhaps furloughed workers but have the capability and the capacity and the skills to make this personal protective equipment and clothing – particularly the gowns – but have not heard back from the government.
“Some of them are doing it on an ad-hoc basis for local hospitals or care homes, but this needs to be systematic – it needs to be a national effort, using all of our manufacturing and textile capacity and capability to ensure that the doctors and nurses and care workers … have that equipment and clothing that they need.”
She said there had been “too much focus” on importing PPE from overseas and that there had not been enough focus on bringing smaller suppliers into the national effort.
“It is a disgrace that we’ve got people working on the frontline who aren’t properly protected and government’s first and foremost responsibility is to protect its citizens, and this now is our main priority.”