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UK consortium targets 1,500 ventilators per week in race against time

LONDON (Reuters) - A consortium of aerospace, Formula One and engineering firms hopes soon to be making at least 1,500 ventilators a week as Britain races to boost the number of devices which can help save the lives of those with coronavirus.

Countries need more ventilators, mechanical breathing devices that can blow air and oxygen into the lungs, which aid people suffering from lung failure, one of the complications of severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the pandemic.

Britain has ordered more than 10,000 of them from a group including Ford, Airbus and McLaren but on Wednesday a government spokesman said the first batch would be “up to 30”, prompting criticism that the level was too low.

“It is vital that we balance the twin imperatives of speed of delivery with the absolute adherence to regulatory standards that is needed to ensure patient safety,” said Dick Elsy, the chief executive of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, which is leading the project.

“We are targeting production of at least 1,500 units a week of the Penlon and Smiths models combined within a matter of weeks.”

The former engineering unit of the Williams F1 team said on Thursday it will help produce an initial batch of 5,000 ventilators, which forms part of the government order.

Britain’s National Health Service has around 8,000 ventilators at its disposal with more being bought from abroad and the potential for thousands to be built domestically, subject to regulatory approval and final deals being struck.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, has warned that staff may be faced with difficult decisions over scarce resources.

“Health professionals may be obliged to withdraw treatment from some patients to enable treatment of other patients with a higher survival probability,” it said.

Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; writing by Costas Pitas; Editing by William Schomberg

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