Britain’s lack of personal protective equipment when the Covid pandemic hit was a “tragedy,” Boris Johnson admitted.
The prime minister said the nation “cannot produce enough gloves, enough dresses, enough masks” during a call with conservative activists.
He insisted the problem was now resolved, with the UK able to manufacture 85% of its own PPE instead of relying on international supplies.
His confession last night appears to be very different from the government’s previous remarks.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was criticized in February for claiming that while there were individual challenges in accessing PPE, there had never been a national shortage, because of my team .
Yet Mr Johnson told campaigners: ‘When the pandemic started, as you will recall, we could barely produce any of our PPE ourselves.
“It was a tragedy.
We couldn’t produce enough gloves, enough gowns, enough masks. We can now do 85% here in the UK.
A National Audit Office report in November found that the government “made a huge effort to increase supply, but paid very high prices due to unusual market conditions and many frontline workers reported shortages. of PPE “.
Yet Downing Street today backed up his claim that there is no shortage of PPE. Boris Johnson spokesman said: “I think the distinction is that the PM was talking about the UK-based offer.
“It’s a simple fact that we didn’t have a significant number of UK-based PPE suppliers at the start of this pandemic. And that’s something the government completely transformed in a matter of months.”
During a virtual fundraiser, Mr Johnson also suggested that virtual GP appointments and changes on Main Street would become permanent – and that could be a good thing.
He said: “If I had to bet now, I would say that next June 21, we’re in a good position to move away from social distancing and all that stuff.
Confidence will return and I think over time, if we continue in the cautious way that we are, I think the kind of turmoil, dynamism, the great cyclotron of movement that the London economy depends on and our big ones depend on. cities, I think everything will come back.
And you will start to see this effect of agglomeration of talent in our cities and the economy will start spinning like that again.
But I think it will be better because in fact I think some people will have learned to be even more productive by spending some of their time communicating at a distance.
I think we’re going to consolidate some of the technological gains we’ve made, whether in counseling – you have your medical consultations online, like they do in Israel, I think it’s all good down – I think well being able to use technology a lot more. .
And I think the revolution in retail is likely to accelerate. But that doesn’t mean the end of the main street at all. [Shops] will be busy but it could mean different stores, it could be a different approach to shopping.
“You will see that I think Covid in many ways will have contracted some of the changes that were taking place.
“But I don’t think that in economic terms that’s necessarily going to be a bad thing. I think there will be big productivity gains.
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