Coronavirus: Government facing fresh questions over EU equipment scheme

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The federal government is dealing with recent questions over the time it took to affix an EU scheme to supply medical gear.

Officers have insisted the UK didn’t obtain an preliminary invitation in time due to communication issues.

However Brussels sources have instructed the BBC the UK was given ample alternative to participate within the scheme.

On Tuesday, a senior civil servant retracted claims the UK had taken a “political decision” not to join.

Final month the federal government was criticised for not participating within the EU plan to bulk purchase medical gear – together with probably life-saving ventilators, protecting gear and testing equipment – that may very well be used to deal with the coronavirus.

On the time, Downing Avenue stated the UK was making its personal preparations as a result of it was not within the EU, though ministers denied claims that anti-EU sentiment had performed an element within the choice.

Downing Avenue later issued an announcement saying the UK had been invited to participate however officers didn’t see the e-mail due to a “communication confusion”.

Requested on Tuesday why the choice was taken to not be part of the scheme, Sir Simon McDonald – who’s everlasting secretary on the International Workplace – instructed the International Affairs Committee that it was a deliberate transfer by ministers.

“We left the European Union on 31 January,” he stated.

Pushed additional, he added: “All I can say is that it’s a matter of proven fact that we have now not taken half. It was a political choice… and the choice is not any.”

However 5 hours later Sir Simon retracted his feedback after Mr Hancock disputed the suggestion the choice to not take part had been a political one.

“As a consequence of a misunderstanding, I inadvertently and wrongly instructed the committee that ministers have been briefed on the joint EU procurement scheme and took a political choice not to participate in it,” he wrote.

“That’s incorrect. Ministers weren’t briefed by our mission in Brussels concerning the scheme and a political choice was not tackle whether or not or to not take part.”

He added that “the details of the state of affairs are as beforehand set out” and the UK missed the chance to participate “owing to an preliminary communication drawback”.

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Media caption‘Political choice’ not to participate in EU procurement

Nonetheless, sources current throughout Cobra conferences have instructed the BBC there have been discussions about whether or not to work with the EU at the beginning of the pandemic. Sources near Well being Secretary Matt Hancock strongly dispute there was any dialogue about particular EU schemes.

The UK has now joined the newest EU procurement spherical, which is able to initially contain therapeutic remedy.

The European Fee stated the UK would miss out on the primary orders of ventilators and protecting gear which have been positioned however have but to be delivered.

In the meantime, an RAF aircraft despatched to Turkey to choose up a cargo of private protecting gear (PPE) has arrived again at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, although it’s not but recognized precisely what provides it contained.

The aircraft was initially anticipated to reach within the UK on Sunday, reportedly bringing again 400,000 surgical robes.

This isn’t an episode of Sure Minister, the place the fastidiously crafted communications of high officers and ministers are fodder for jokes.

However there may be now a quite mysterious state of affairs in Whitehall over among the choices that have been taken, or not taken, on the outset of this disaster, over what has emerged as one of many trickiest points.

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At Tuesday’s Downing Avenue coronavirus briefing, Mr Hancock revealed he had now accepted an invite from the EU to affix the scheme on an “affiliate” foundation. However he added that it had not but delivered a single merchandise of medical gear.

The choice to not be part of earlier had had “zero” impression on the UK’s present provides, he prompt.

Additionally within the briefing, the well being secretary introduced that the first human trials for a vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, would begin on Thursday.

Mr Hancock stated the federal government was “throwing all the pieces” at growing an inoculation for the virus.

He stated two main vaccine developments at UK universities – Imperial Faculty London and the College of Oxford – would obtain a complete of £42.5m to assist their medical trials.

“Each of those promising initiatives are making fast progress and I’ve instructed the scientists main them we are going to do all the pieces in our energy to assist.”

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Mr Hancock additionally addressed the scarcity of protecting gear for the NHS, saying the federal government was speaking to hundreds of suppliers, however not all might ship.

It got here as various British firms instructed the BBC their presents to assist had gone ignored.

On Tuesday, the UK recorded one other 823 coronavirus hospital deaths – taking the entire quantity to 17,337.

Official figures additionally confirmed deaths hit a 20-year-high in England and Wales within the week as much as 10 April – practically double what would have been anticipated – pushed by 6,200 fatalities attributed to coronavirus.

In different developments:

  • Solely a tiny fraction of vulnerable children in England are taking over the emergency faculty locations stored open for them, official figures present
  • A group of 25 doctors have written to the health secretary as a result of they’re involved concerning the UK’s present recommendation on self-isolation for coronavirus
  • US President Donald Trump has stated his plan to ban immigration into the US will last for 60 days and apply to these looking for everlasting residence
  • Performing chief of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davy has known as for an unbiased inquiry to evaluation the federal government’s response to the pandemic “so we will be taught the teachings” as soon as the quick disaster has handed
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan has instructed the BBC Transport for London will run out of cash by the tip of this month to pay workers – and it might have to chop companies – except the federal government steps in
  • Grocery store and store employees deserve to be paid a minimum of £10 an hour after coronavirus, a union chief has argued
  • Boris Johnson’s stand-in, International Secretary Dominic Raab, will take Prime Minister’s Questions, the place he’ll face Labour chief Keir Starmer for the primary time

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