‘Desperate’ shortage of ventilators for coronavirus patients puts manufacturers on wartime footing

March 19, 2020 / By Emma Reynolds and Eoin McSweeney, CNN Business

London (CNN Business)Governments and manufacturers are adopting drastic measures to produce more ventilators as the coronavirus pandemic places unprecedented demand on the world’s hospitals.

The UK government has turned to a wartime solution, enlisting manufacturers including aerospace and engineering group Rolls-Royce and vacuum company Dyson to produce this essential equipment.

Helen Meese, vice-chair of the biomedical engineering division at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, told CNN Business there was “a major need” for ventilators, particularly as the world prepares for “quite a drought of these devices over the coming weeks” as we reach the peak of the pandemic.

The World Health Organization has urged all countries to “optimize the availability” of lung ventilation equipment, which assists or replaces breathing functions for critically ill patients, pumping oxygen into the blood to keep organs functioning. “Oxygen therapy is the major treatment intervention for patients with severe Covid-19,” the organization said.

In February, when the city of Wuhan was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, China turned to the rest of the world to help with a severe shortage. China’s industrial equipment department said it had produced more than 15,000 ventilators and was setting up “accelerated channels” to import more.

Now that the epicenter of the outbreak has shifted to Europe, the Chinese Red Cross is transporting supplies to Italy, where there have been 31,000 cases and more than 2,500 deaths. On Tuesday, Chinese state media reported that a second team had traveled to Italy with 30 pulmonary ventilators, 200,000 masks and 9 tons of other supplies.


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