Business experts and scientists have launched a petition urging the Government to mass produce face masks to protect NHS workers and the public from coronavirus.
Three British doctors died from coronavirus over the weekend and frontline health workers have repeated warned they are running out of basic protective equipment such as masks and visors.
Fashion and textile firms claim they could have begun manufacturing masks and gowns for NHS staff nearly two weeks ago, but have received no orders from the Government.
The petition has been launched by Professor Jennifer Wen, from engineering and technology group WMG, and Professor Qing Wang, of Warwick Business School, both based at the University of Warwick. This petition is also supported by medical experts across the country including those in Birmingham Medical School and the Imperial College Medical School.
Professor Qing Wang warned the shortage of suitable masks for health workers and the public was undermining efforts to slow the spread of the virus in the UK and putting lives at risk.
She said: “The Prime Minister has said he believes that the UK can turn the tide on coronavirus within the next 12 weeks.
“However, frontline medics have repeatedly raised concerns about the shortage of adequate protective equipment, including medical grade face masks.
“The latest scientific evidence also provides support for mass masking as an important measure to complement social distancing, especially for core workers, shoppers, police, and politicians who have frequent contact with a large number of people, and/or operate in a confined space.
“This measure proved to be critical in the battle against this deadly virus in other countries particularly in Asia including South Korea, Japan and China.
“In the UK, there has been conflicting advice about the use of face masks, compounded by the shortage of face masks due to the lack of production capacity.”
Professor Jennifer Wen said: “The Government has acted promptly to encourage national industry to produce ventilators for the fight against Covid-19.
“It is equally important that we develop our national capacity to produce face masks of different grades for NHS staff and the general public to help suppress the outbreak.
“The whole world is looking to buy more personal protective equipment. It was recently reported that French border guards impounded trucks filled with 130,000 masks bound for the UK.
“Given the national emergency we are currently facing, it is essential that the UK has its own supply of critical items, such as face masks, to protect our national security and safety.”