EU ramps up pressure on Matt Hancock over coronavirus PPE scheme

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, is facing fresh pressure over the protection offered to NHS staff after the European commission said the UK had been given “ample opportunity” to join an EU scheme bulk-buying masks, gowns, gloves and goggles. The commission spokesman said UK representatives had been briefed on the EU plans throughout February and March when they could have signed up for the huge purchases of ventilators, laboratory supplies and personal protective equipment. (Pictured) Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement, while flanked by windows showing children's drawings of rainbows supporting the NHS, on his first day back at work in Downing Street after recovering from a bout of coronavirus (COVID-19) that put him in intensive care, in London, England on April 27. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warned the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could see the U.K. economy shrink by a record 35 percent by June.  A man wears a religious placard on Market Street in Manchester, England on March 25.  Workers sell food and household items to local residents from their ice cream van at a supported housing estate in west Belfast, Northern Ireland on April 1. Soldiers and private contractors help to prepare the ExCel centre in London, which is being made into the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital comprising two wards, each of 2,000 people, to help tackle coronavirus, on March 30.  Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a press conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with chief medical officer Chris Whitty (L) and Chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance (R) in Downing Street after he had taken part in the government's emergency Cobra meeting in London, England on March 16. Raab confirmed, in response to questions from the new Labour leader, Keir Starmer, that the government needed to “strive even harder in this incredibly difficult and competitive international environment” to source protective equipment. “We did receive an invitation in the Department of Health and it was put up to me to be asked and we joined so we are now members of that scheme.” A spokesman for the European commission rebutted any suggestion that the UK was currently involved in any of the EU’s efforts to buy masks, gowns, ventilators or laboratory supplies. The Guardian revealed last week that UK officials failed to take up an invitation to join the steering committee of participating countries that issues orders for medical equipment until 19 March – after the bulk purchases had been made.