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UK: NHS staff fighting COVID-19 advised to reuse PPE due to shortages

Doctors and nurses in the UK have been advised to reuse pieces of their personal protective equipment (PPE) this weekend ahead of expected shortages.[1]

The frontline medics, some of whom have already been forced to use bin bags in lieu of gowns, have been told to reuse their PPE even if they are labelled as single-use.

The advice for all NHS workers was published by the Department of Health in light of impending supply issues.

It states that even if designated by the manufacturer as a single-use product, staff should consider the “reuse of personal protective equipment” where necessary.

The document further adds that in order to cope with shortages and ensure workers are still using some form of protection, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) “recognise that some compromise in process is needed”.

The document seems to also recognise that the new published advice contradicts previous guidelines. It states, “these are exceptional circumstances and do not reflect HSE’s standard approach”.

The deadly coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China in December, but is now prevalent in 210 countries and territories around the world as well as 2 international conveyances.

At the time of writing, there are over 2.2 million registered coronavirus cases worldwide, with more than 154 thousand deaths.[2] Indeed we belong to Allāh, and to Him we shall return.

It is also important to note that over 581 thousand people have recovered so far from the deadly virus, alhamdulillāh.

NHS staff and medics have been complaining of shortages of supply throughout the entire coronavirus epidemic. Several reports have suggested that many staff have had to go out of their way to buy their own equipment for their safety.

As a result, many medics have claimed that their colleagues have been infected due to a lack of protective equipment. In fact, several healthcare workers are among the 14,576 coronavirus patients who have died in UK hospitals alone.

Very recently, a consultant urologist at Homerton Hospital in East London, 53 year-old Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, died from the deadly virus after warning Boris Johnson about the lack of protective equipment and the need to support the NHS during the crisis.[3]

In his direct plea to the Prime Minister last month, he asked Mr Johnson to “ensure urgently personal protective equipment (PPE) for each and every NHS worker”.

An open letter penned in The Sunday Times by 3,963 doctors stated that they were “putting their lives on the line every day” by “working without adequate protection.” The letter further added that:

“Intensive care doctors and anaesthetists have told us they have been carrying out the highest-risk procedure, putting a patient on a ventilator, with masks that expired in 2015.”

Rosena Allin-Khan, a Labour MP and A&E doctor, who has returned to the NHS frontline to help, tweeted:

“My sadness is turning into anger.”

“The government promised us that the NHS would be given everything it needed to tackle coronavirus. At least 56 healthcare staff have died of COVID-19. The lack of PPE will certainly result in more avoidable deaths.”

The government has turned to blame the shortages on the huge worldwide demand for personal protective equipment items such as masks and gowns.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has admitted that the reuse of protective equipment may be necessary, however he did not make mention of the advice that has now been issued to frontline medics.

In response to shortages that medics have had to face, he said: “Given that we have a global situation in which there is less PPE in the world than the world needs, obviously it’s going to be a huge pressure point.”

However, many critics have argued that it is not the global situation and worldwide demand to blame for the lack of essential equipment, but rather the government’s failure, as Britain was woefully unready.[4]

The Conservatives have now been in power for a decade, and sooner or later people will demand to hold it accountable over how prepared the country was for the pandemic. Many commentators have argued that it is as a result of many years of austerity and NHS cuts that the NHS is not equipped to cope with the pandemic and facing the current crisis in such circumstances.[5]

Some countries across the world have set an example to the entire world by quickly launching generous social assistance and aid schemes, both nationally and globally, declaring economic support packages, monthly pension payments, and shelter for the homeless.

One such example is Turkey, who recently launched the ‘Free Surgical Masks’ programme to the entire nation of 82 million residents, putting other nations – who cannot even provide protective equipment to their healthcare workers – to shame.[6]

Turkey set up a website where both citizens and official residents can register to receive five free surgical masks per week delivered by the national postal service.

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, praised Turkey’s solidarity with other countries, describing its aid shipments to other countries as “exemplary.”[7]

Turkey has delivered medical aid to several countries including the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Kosovo. [8]

Generosity and philanthropy are one of the most important manifestations of an Islamic country. Many people do not relate the application of the Shariah to also include humanitarianism. A sincere government is one that has a positive rippling impact across the globe. Humanitarian actions and the responsibility to help those in need is seen as a religious obligation in Islam that does not go unpaid or unnoticed in the hereafter.

The Turkish government and Turkish people have clearly shown its concern for humanity across the world in accordance to the humanitarian acts that Islam has emphasised. As a result, Turkey has become an example for other countries that may have the ability to have a similar, if not greater impact.

The current pandemic has clearly highlighted the poison of greed that world suffers from. During a time where nations should be helping and supporting one another, some have quickly taken increasingly devious measures to secure masks and tests in fears of shortages.

The US is said to be hijacking mask shipments in its rush for coronavirus protection. [9] In early April, several reports stated that “US buyers waving wads of cash managed to wrest control of a consignment of masks as it was about to be dispatched from China to one of the worst-hit coronavirus areas of France”. [10]

The following day, a second story claimed that 200,000 N95 masks, destined for Germany from China, were diverted to the US during a plane transfer in Thailand. The masks had originally been ordered for the Berlin police force.

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أعمالكم عُمَالكم ، وكما تكونوا يولى عليكم

“Your leaders are your deeds. As you are, so shall your leaders be.”

(Cited by Al-Hasan al-Basri)

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The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.


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About Hamad Momin


  1. There’s a lot of debate in higher circles about using face masks in this country. Apparently we haven’t got enough for everyone and the NHS is in need. It’s not essential for the general public to have the highest grade masks as long as social distancing and safe practice is maintained. Scarfs and bandanas and home made ones will suffice.

  2. China has being supplying the world with sub standard materials for many years. You just have to talk to the African nations . Apparently the UK has paid China £16 million pounds for 2 million faulty test kits. Adding to that BA rushed out a plane a few days ago to pick up 2 million pieces of PPE from China. I’m guessing a lot of this will be rolled out to our NHS without much scrutiny.

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