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Downing Street admits thousands more ventilators won't be available until coronavirus peak is over

THOUSANDS more ventilators for critically ill coronavirus patients are not expected to be ready for months, despite the outbreak being expected to peak in three weeks’ time.

Downing Street said today that 8,000 extra artificial-respiration machines had been ordered by the government to double the stock held by the NHS.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “We expect thousands of those to arrive in the coming weeks and thousands more in the pipeline to arrive in the coming months.”

On Wednesday, epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson, who has been advising the PM on the crisis, suggested that the majority of the ventilators may be needed sooner than that.

The government announcement came after hospitals in London – the region most affected by the virus – were reported by NHS Providers to be facing a “continuous tsunami” of patients, with some likely to be overwhelmed in a few days.

Trusts are also facing a severe shortage of staff, caused by both the pandemic and Tory cuts.

Prof Ferguson predicted that demand for intensive care would peak “in approximately two to three weeks and then decline thereafter” if the current lockdown works as expected.

The government was also criticised by Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth for not taking part in a European Union scheme to boost the number of ventilators.

When asked why Britain was not in the scheme, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “Well, we are no longer members of the EU.”

The Star understands that the procurement scheme remains open to Britain during the Brexit transition period, which ends in October.

Mr Ashworth said: “With widespread concerns about our ventilator capacity and the urgent need to scale up that capacity, we should be co-operating through international schemes to ensure we get these desperately need pieces of kit.”

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