Downing Street ignored ‘warnings’ on PPE shipment from Turkey

PUBLISHED: 10:37 23 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:25 23 April 2020

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

10 Downing Street deliberately ignored warnings by senior ministers not to publicise the arrival of personal protective equipment (PPE) from Turkey.

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Downing Street shunned explicit advice from Matt Hancock’s department that it should not publicise that a shipment of essential PPE for fight against the coronavirus was on its way from Turkey.

The department of health and social care “strongly advised” communities minister Robert Jenrick against the move in case the cargo did not arrive in time.

Those words went unheeded on Sunday when the minister informed reporters that a load of 83 tonnes of medical equipment - including 400,000 medical gowns - would land in the UK from Turkey by Monday. The government was left backtracking after the shipment arrived two days late.

It has since emerged that Downing Street failed to get permission from Turkish authorities to transport the goods. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration stepped in at the last minute offering PPE produced from a state-owned manufacturer after the UK’s chosen supplier failed to meet its order because of logistical issues.

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A health ministry source told the Guardian: “We strongly advised Robert Jenrick against doing this [mentioning the Turkey shipment at the government press conference last Saturday] but he and No 10 overruled us.

“The advice we gave as a department was that we shouldn’t mention individual orders of PPE. But for whatever reason it wasn’t followed.”

He added: “Lots of people were clear that we shouldn’t be talking about any shipments before they’ve arrived. Everyone in government is normally wary of this and I don’t know why it didn’t happen this time,”

A snap poll found that 65% of people think the government has done a bad job supplying the NHS with PPE.

The government is also facing a chorus of complaints about the speed at which it is ramping up coronavirus testing and supplying PPE to NHS frontline workers. Just last night, former health secretary and Number 10 hopeful, Jeremy Hunt, told Peston the government desperately needed to stock up on protective masks if it makes wearing the protective equipment in public mandatory.

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