Boris Johnson said this week:
“By December… we expect UK manufacturers will meet 70 per cent of the demand for PPE compared with just one per cent before the pandemic.”
Matt Hancock made an almost identical comment in the Commons on Monday, with the caveat that the figure refers to all but one PPE lines (it excludes gloves from the calculation).
It’s an astonishing turnaround. In early September, the government said British firms would only meet 20 per cent of our PPE needs in December.
So what’s changed since then? Do UK manufacturers really expect to produce more than three times the amount of PPE they anticipated a few weeks ago?
Or has the government shifted the goalposts – revising down its estimates of how much PPE the country will need in the depths of the winter flu season?
The government’s latest PPE strategy document, (which repeats the 70 per cent claim) says the demand model has been “adapted” to, among other things, “improve assumptions on the social care sector’s use of PPE” and “improve the balance of PPE items used by GP practices”.
FactCheck understands that since the 20 per cent target was set in June, the government has changed the way it calculates how much PPE will be needed in December. But there’s little transparency about the numbers.
We asked the Department of Health and Social Care whether their estimate of how much PPE will be needed in December has been substantially revised down. They say they can’t provide the figures. Unless and until they do, we don’t know what’s behind the new claims.
The Department declined to comment on the record.