The business secretary has refused to apologise over claims health care workers do not have the right equipment to safely deal with patients who have coronavirus – but admitted to Sky News that more needs to be done.
Alok Sharma told Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he was “sorry for the loss of any life during this pandemic” as he answered questions about the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
But when asked if he wanted to apologise directly to medical teams caring for COVID-19 patients, he said: “It is our job to make sure we get that health care equipment, that PPE, out to them.
“Right now, your viewers will be asking, does the government have a plan to get this PPE out to the frontline? And the answer is, yes, we do have a plan.
“We are putting that in place, with millions of pieces of PPE kit going out to the frontline. Of course, we need to be doing even more.”
It comes after the Royal College of Nursing advised members they have the right to refuse to treat patients if they do not have adequate personal protective equipment to use.
More than 30 NHS workers are believed to have died after contracting the virus.
Mr Sharma told Sky News health workers should not be put in such a position.
“It is absolutely right that no medical professional should be placed in a position where they have to make that choice.
“That for me is self-evident. That is why we are making sure we get the equipment to the frontline.”
The Cabinet minister said PPE demand was well beyond anything that would be seen outside of a pandemic and that there was a “unified effort” to deliver more supplies.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told Ridge questions would be asked in time about the government’s response, but the “most important thing is we do have that unity of purpose” to decrease the death rate, adding: “We will support the government in that.
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“We will ask challenging questions, difficult questions about where we go next, about what’s happened in the past, but I think the whole nation desperately wants those figures to go down.
“Every day we see the figures, we shudder at the thought of the families affected by it.”
Meanwhile, coronavirus hospital deaths in the UK have topped more than 10,000 as 657 more people die in England.
Scotland recorded a further 24 deaths, Wales 18 and Northern Ireland 11.