A plane with thousands of surgical gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE) has landed in the UK from Turkey, after several days of delay.
The British Royal Air Force (RAF) military craft arrived the RAF Brize Norton airbase in Oxfordshire, about 75 miles from London, early on Wednesday. Cargo was seen being offloaded and transferred into a truck.
The shipment, which contained at least 400,000 surgical gowns and other equipment, was supposed to have arrived on Sunday but was unexpectedly delayed, according to local media.
The Turkish ambassador to the UK Umut Yalcin told Sky News: “As far as I understand there have been problems with the private [Turkish] supplier company.
“Now Turkey is cooperating with the UK authorities to find a quick solution for the UK’s urgent needs.
“Turkey helped the UK by donating 250,000 pieces of personal protective equipment last week and this time again Turkey is trying to help the UK authorities to resolve this commercial issue.”
He said the UK officially asked for support on Sunday.
By then, criticism was mounting against the government that it was failing to provide healthcare workers with an adequate supply of PPE.
Britain’s overall response to the coronavirus outbreak has seen PM Johnson heavily criticised over indecisive action on a lockdown at the start of the crisis and later, PPE shortages.
The trade union Unite has told its members they could lawfully refuse to work to avoid risk of injury, describing the PPE situation as a “national scandal”.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is leading the government while Prime Minister Boris Johnson recovers from a severe case of COVID-19, said on Wednesday that at least 69 medical workers had died on the front lines of the epidemic.
There was also further controversy after Simon McDonald, the head of the UK’s diplomatic service, said the government had made “a political decision” in failing to join a European Union-wide scheme to buy medical ventilators in bulk. He has since withdrawn the comment.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the true extent of Britain’s COVID-19 death toll was reported to be more than 40 percent higher than the government’s daily figures indicated as of April 10, according to official data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that put the country on track to become among the worst-hit in Europe.
The ONS said it recorded 13,121 deaths by April 10 in England and Wales, which account for the vast majority of Britain’s population, compared with 9,288 in the government’s daily toll for those who died in hospital.
On Wednesday, analysis by the Financial Times of the latest ONS data suggested the novel coronavirus outbreak has caused as many as 41,000 deaths in the United Kingdom.