Government ministers only formally requested personal protective equipment (PPE) from Turkey on Sunday after announcing at a Downing Street briefing it was on the way.
Housing minister Robert Jenrick told reporters at Downing Street’s daily press conference on Sunday that a ‘very significant additional shipment’ of PPE – around 84,000 tonnes, including 400,000 gowns – was on course to arrive in the UK by Monday.
But it has since emerged that senior Tory ministers did not seek the permission of Turkish authorities to transport the goods until that day, and from the country’s ministry of health until Monday.
One source told Sky News: ‘The Turkish state is not responsible for any delay. We are ready to help in any way we can’. Another said Turkish authorities acted quickly to issue permits.
‘It’s ridiculous to think that a country last week was helping the UK by donation and this week it is preventing (the export of PPE),’ the source added.
A government source has said that the supplier in Turkey had encountered problems and asked for its government to intervene. It is believed bureaucratic hurdles such as filling out paperwork and ensuring the kit met safety and quality standards hindered progress.
A Royal Air Force, which landed in Ankara on Monday evening after leaving its Oxfordshire base, is waiting to be filled with cargo. It is understood a second military aircraft is set to arrive early Tuesday morning.
The government has been unable to explain the delay in equipment arriving in Britain.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare organisations, said the setback ‘makes a difficult situation worse’.
Niall Dickson said: ‘It would have been better had the government not made the announcement in the first place.’
Turkish authorities donated 250,000 pieces of PPE to Britain over the Easter weekend.