Britain orders 10,000 ventilators from F1, aerospace consortium

A Ford worker assembling ventilators for coronavirus patients. (AP pic)

LONDON: Britain has ordered more than 10,000 ventilators from a consortium of leading aerospace, engineering and Formula One racing companies, with production to begin this week.

The group, including Airbus, BAE Systems, Ford and seven Formula One teams, has said it expected to get a very prompt regulatory sign off of an agreed new design which is based on existing technologies.

“This consortium brings together some of the most innovative companies in the world,” Dick Elsy, the head of the consortium said in a statement. “I am confident this consortium has the skills and tools to make a difference and save lives.”

The United Kingdom, which initially only had 5,000 ventilators available in its National Health Service, has been scrambling to secure additional supplies of the equipment which can save the lives of those with complications from Covid-19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is now in isolation in Downing Street after testing positive for coronavirus, made an emergency appeal earlier this month for manufacturers to start making specialist health equipment including ventilators.

The government said it needed 30,000 ventilators. Britain currently has about 8,000 ventilators with another 8,000 on order from international manufacturers that are due in coming weeks.

Vacuum cleaner company Dyson said last week it had received an order of a newly-made ventilator which will need to be approved by the health regulator.

Reuters reported last week that the consortium had joined forces to build ventilators and was waiting for the green light from government to start production.

The engineering consortium will accelerate production of an agreed new design which can be assembled from materials and parts in current production. The team includes two existing ventilator producers, Smiths Group and Penlon.

The consortium did not say when the ventilators would be ready for use in hospitals.

A total of 1,228 people have died in the United Kingdom from coronavirus, as of 5pm  Saturday.

Separately on Monday a group including Mercedes Formula One said it had developed a new version of a breathing aid that can help coronavirus patients in less a week. It is now being trialled in hospitals.