Coronavirus: Egypt sends medical gowns for British health workers

Hospital trusts concerned about shortage of protective equipment for UK medics

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Doctors wearing protective equipment are seen loading a patient in to an ambulance outside St Thomas' Hospital on April 7, 2020 in London, England. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was transferred to the intensive care unit at St Thomas' Hospital after his coronavirus symptoms worsened last night. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
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A large number of medical gowns are being sent from Egypt to the UK to help British doctors and nurses tackle the coronavirus.

UK Trade Minister Greg Hands said on Monday that after several calls with the British ambassador to Egypt and engagement with Britain's Department for International Trade, the medical gowns had been sent.

The gowns, designed to resist droplets that can cause the virus to spread, will help with British medics' urgent need for personal protective equipment.

Mr Hands tweeted his thanks to Egypt: "A large number of medical gowns are on their way to the UK - thank you, Egypt!"

There have been concerns about the lack of protective equipment available to frontline staff in Britain’s National Health Service.

NHS workers themselves have warned they have not been provided the necessary protection, prompting the country's interior minister, Priti Patel, to apologise for the shortages.

"I am sorry if people feel there have been failings," she said last week.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers in England, which represents hospital trusts, on Monday said the number of gowns available to staff in some parts of the country was “very, very low”.

Hours later, The Guardian newspaper reported that the UK missed three opportunities to be part of an EU scheme to buy masks, gowns and gloves in bulk, and was absent from important  talks about future purchases.

European medics will receive the first batch of €1.5 billion (Dh6.01bn) worth of personal protective equipment within two weeks in a joint scheme involving 25 nations and eight companies. The UK is not included in this scheme.

A total of 11,329 patients have died in British hospitals after testing positive for the coronavirus, up by 717 in the past 24 hours.

The Egyptian gowns have already provided highly effective protection for health workers battling the virus in Italy.

The health authorities in Egypt donated the protective gear, along with other medical supplies, in early April.

Two military planes transported the cargo and a delegation led by Egyptian health minister Hala Zayed to Italy while the country struggled to contain the worst outbreak of the virus in Europe.

Egypt has so far confirmed 2,190 cases of the novel coronavirus, with 164 deaths.

Experts fear the real number of infections could be much higher.