One of the lawyers suing has said that it is a “a real cause for alarm”, but the government said that “due diligence” is always taken
50 million face masks that had been bought by the UK government will not be utilised by the NHS over health and safety concerns.
The personal protective equipment (PPE) that was ordered from Ayanda Capital have ear loops of the masks, rather than the standard head loops, and there are concerns over whether this feature is adequate.
The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor, both of which are suing the UK government over the contract that had been taken out because of COVID-19, estimate that the masks have costed the nation over £150m.
This comes after PizzaExpress has said that it could close around 67 of its restaurants throughout the UK, putting up to 1,100 jobs at risk. The chain, which also revealed it has put itself up for sale, blamed the move on the “significantly more challenging environment” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Court papers have shown that Ayanda was awarded a £252.5m contract on the 29th of April, with £41.25m payable on the commencement to secure the manufacturing capacity.
The company has also supplied 150 million face masks of another type, those of which the government has said are unaffected but will be subject to further testing prior to them being released for use within the NHS.
It was also revealed in court papers that the original sales approach came from a businessman named Andrew Mills, who is both an adviser to the UK Board of Trade, as well as a senior board adviser for Ayanda Capital.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said on a visit to north Wales: “For months we were told that the government was purchasing the right equipment for the front line. Yet again it hasn’t happened.
“There needs now to be an investigation, an inquiry, into what went wrong with this particular contract because it’s just not good enough to people who need that protective equipment that we find ourselves in this position.”
A UK government spokesman said: “Throughout this global pandemic, we have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE to protect people on the front line.
“Over 2.4 billion items have been delivered and more than 30 billion have been ordered from UK-based manufacturers and international partners to provide a continuous supply, which meets the needs of health and social care staff both now and in the future.
“There is a robust process in place to ensure orders are of high quality and meet strict safety standards, with the necessary due diligence undertaken on all government contracts.”
This comes after the biggest shake-up of housing planning in England for decades has caused fury as it moves to fast-track the building of “beautiful” homes that could lead to “slum” living conditions.
A spokesperson for Ayanda Capital has said that the firm has written to the Times newspaper, which first reported the story, to “correct the assertions made in their article”.
“The masks met all government specifications and standards, the masks are not unusable or unsafe and the government has not wasted any money in purchasing these masks,” they added.