COVID-19 needs no introduction, as we have all talked of little else for the last month. None of us have ever experienced anything like this and will hopefully never have to experience anything like it again. With most of the world in lockdown and hundreds of thousands of infected people being treated it has become increasingly clear how unprepared countries have been to deal with a pandemic of such epic proportions.
In the UK an area of particular weakness is the extreme shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) which in normal times would present no problem. This includes facemasks, gowns and gloves that need to be purchased by the millions in order to keep Doctors, Nurses and NHS Staff safe while carrying out their very demanding roles during this time of crisis.
NHS Doctors and Nurses are constantly surrounded by COVID-19 as they treat people infected with the virus which in turn means they are highly vulnerable to being infected by the virus themselves. Also there is increasing evidence to suggest that the severity of the illness can be largely dependent on the amount of the virus one might have been exposed to when the illness was contracted. This could be the reason why we are seeing young nurses with no pre-existing medical conditions dying. Without enough PPE our NHS workers are overly vulnerable.
Unfortunately PPE equipment is not manufactured in the UK or Europe in sufficient quantities and the drive for cost saving has lead to factories being largely set up in China or other countries in Asia with low production costs. In the last two months the demand for PPE has sky rocketed and now all countries are scrambling to buy whatever they can get their hands on, but the reality is there is not enough to go around.
To exacerbate matters most Governments are slow moving and although many companies and suppliers are offering to help there appears to be a total inability to act quickly. The result is our NHS staff are in dire need of PPE equipment.
We are all learning from the news that the PPE supply situation in China has become chaotic and this has led to several thousand copycat factories popping up who are selling “fake” PPE that is flooding the market and exacerbating the situation.
In summary there is not enough good quality PPE available to meet worldwide demand and our NHS staff are running out. UK Mask Force has formed a Registered Charity to source and supply PPE equipment, initially concentrating on the efficient and quick supply of masks.
The UK Mask Force team is made up of British and American individuals based in the UK and China who have combined their skills to set up a logistics structure designed to bring large shipments of certified FFP2, FFP3, Surgical Masks & other PPE into the UK.
UK Mask Force has a unique strength by having its own procurement team on the ground in China lead by Matt Clearfield and Conor Moore, both of whom have been based in China for 16 years and are situated in Guangzhou where they live. Unlike most foreigners Matt and Conor, who speak, read and write Chinese fluently, have remained in China during this pandemic. They have a team of employees who are trained to carry out due diligence and quality control checks at the various PPE factories and a member of their team is always present in the factory, to ensure quality control, when one of the orders from UK Mask Force are coming off the production line.
UK Mask Force has been able to identify reliable and established factories to meet its demands for mask supply. The correct selection of factories is crucial and UK Mask Force follows two hard and fast rules that are non-negotiable:
1) It cannot be a new company or factory that has sprung up after the coronavirus breakout and the factory must have a history of working in its particular sector, and
2) UK Mask Force needs to have a direct relationship with the factory owners or senior management.