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Nicola Sturgeon says PPE diversion claims will be investigated as Scottish coronavirus death toll rises to 615

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has addressed reports that personal protective equipment distribution to care homes has been prioritised for England by the UK Government.

In her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said that the issue was ‘causing concern’ to the Scottish Government and would be raised by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman with her UK counterpart Matt Hancock.

Reports emerged on Tuesday that some companies are prioritising supplies to NHS England and care homes south of the border.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I want to be clear about my view, and I hope that no one thinks this is in any way a point of a political nature, it is a point about fairness and co-operation as all of us deal with the challenge of this virus.

“All parts of the UK are facing supply challenges on PPE, indeed this is a global issue, so any situation where supplies were being diverted from one part of the UK to the other without consultation or any sense of co-operation would clearly be unconscionable and unacceptable.”

Scotland’s clinical director Professor Jason Leitch had said the reports were “rubbish” in a radio appearance on Good Morning Scotland on Tuesday.

When asked by DC Thomson’s Tom Peterkin if she thought Prof Leitch was “wrong” to say that, Ms Sturgeon responded saying that she believes he had been referring to the fact that they had “no evidence” it was under the direction of the NHS.

She said now that the government has “more information about the concerns raised” they hope they can look at the issue – and properly resolve it if there is one.

Ms Freeman said she has told the UK Government that she did not give her permission for PPE to be diverted from Scotland.

She said: “As the First Minister has said, we are urgently seeking clarity on this situation.”

Ms Freeman added that Mr Hancock had cancelled a planned call between the two on Tuesday, so she has instead written to him to raise her concerns.

She added: “He specifically does not have my agreement to the centralisation of ordering or distribution of PPE or to the diversion of orders placed in Scotland for destination to Scottish social care or the NHS.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Our PPE strategy is UK wide, making sure that frontline workers in England, Scotland, Wales and NI all have the PPE they need to stay protected while taking care of patients.

“Through this four nation approach, we’re working closely with the devolved administrations to coordinate the distribution of PPE evenly across the UK.

“We have not instructed any company to prioritise PPE for one nation over the others. So that is a flat no.”

In her daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon announced that there had been a further 40 deaths registered in the past 24 hours from coronavirus, bringing the Scottish total to 615.

There have now been 6358 positive tests for Covid-19, up 291 from yesterday.

1798 patients are in hospital with confirmed or suspected coronavirus, up by one from yesterday, while 196 patients are in intensive care, down 15 from yesterday.

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