An RAF plane, believed to be carrying a delayed consignment of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff, has landed in the UK.
Flight tracker RadarBox showed the Airbus A400-M registered ZM416 depart Istanbul and land just after 3.30am on Wednesday at RAF Brize Norton.
The plane had been dispatched from the Oxfordshire base, where two other planes are on stand-by to pick up further kit from Turkey, late on Monday.
It is not known if the consignment, which was ordered on Thursday and originally due to arrive on Sunday, includes 400,000 badly-needed surgical gowns.
The government has come in for mounting criticism over its failure to ensure NHS staff treating coronavirus patients have the protective equipment they need.
Ministers insisted they were pursuing “every possible option” to secure additional kit but said that, with unprecedented worldwide demand, the situation is “very challenging”.
Local government minister Simon Clarke could not give a timescale on when the full supplies would arrive earlier this week, saying only that it would be in the “next few days”.
Separately, the government said that 140,000 gowns had arrived from Burma – but with the NHS using 150,000 a day, the demand on resources remains intense.
With fears that staff in hospitals and care homes are risking their lives, the TUC called for an independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the issue to be mounted before the end of the year.
Hospitals have sought other ways of obtaining PPE, with the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust buying 6,000 sets of coveralls due to a very low stock of gowns, although it admitted this was “not ideal”.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, has said trusts are being forced into “hand-to-mouth” workarounds, including washing single-use gowns and restricting stocks to key areas.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak told reporters at the Number 10 press briefing on Monday that work was going on to find more PPE.
He said: “We’re improving our sourcing internationally and domestically to make sure we can get the PPE we need in what is a very challenging international context.
“But people on the front line can rest assured that we’re doing absolutely everything we can and straining everything we can to get the equipment they need.”
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?