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UK may signal green for emergency ventilator production

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British industry expects the government to give the go-ahead to an emergency ventilator production plan on Wednesday (25) that will see a number of firms join forces to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, three sources told.

Airbus, Smiths, Ford and McLaren are among a number of different firms which will be involved in the process, with the idea that some degree of output, whether that is making components or full ventilators, should ideally begin next week, said a source close to the process.

“It will be upscaling, on more of an industrial scale, existing ventilator designs,” one of the sources said.

Companies will provide a range of expertise including 3D printing, manufacturing specific parts, assembly and business planning. The government will make an announcement on Wednesday, the sources said.

Britain is trying to boost the number of ventilators available to its publicly funded health service by using some from private hospitals and building more domestically if possible.

The British government declined to comment on the exact timing or details of the ventilator production plan.

The pandemic has forced doctors in some countries to either ration or plan limiting access to critical care beds and ventilators with many nations scrambling to make or buy more.

Ventilators, which cost tens of thousands of dollars, are mechanical breathing devices that can blow air and oxygen into the lungs.

They are crucial for the care of people with lung failure, which can be one of the complications suffered by patients with severe COVID-19, the disease coronavirus causes. But they don’t necessarily save people.

British prime minister Boris Johnson asked businesses to help make the devices over a week ago when he spoke to more than 60 manufacturing firms and organizations with a number of aerospace and automotive companies contacted.

“Businesses can get involved in any part of the process: design, procurement, assembly, testing, and shipping,” his Downing Street office said in a statement on March 16.

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