The £26 million of Covid-related PPE paid for by the British taxpayer that never left China during the pandemic
- Ministers signed off orders for millions of surgical facemasks and plastic aprons
- The items were worth £26million but have now been sold for as little as £500
- When auctioned as two lots in October, the 2,597 pallets were still in Shanghai
Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent on Covid-related personal protective equipment (PPE) that never left China.
Ministers signed off orders for 64.4 million surgical facemasks and 3.7 million plastic aprons worth £26 million during the pandemic.
But now the items, which were made in China, have been sold in an online auction for as little as £500.
Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money was spent on Covid-related personal protective equipment that never left China, it has been revealed. Pictured: A patient is transported out of an ambulance by medics wearing PPE at the Royal London Hospital on January 2, 2021
When auctioned as two lots in late October, the 2,597 pallets of PPE were still in Shanghai.
They were never shipped as they were deemed surplus to requirements.
The facemasks would have cost taxpayers around 40p each when they were purchased during the pandemic, according the National Audit Office, bringing the cost of those just auctioned to £25.8 million.
The aprons cost just 5p each, so the total cost for them was around £184,000.
How much they went for in the auction, organised by UK-based disposals firm Ramco, is unknown.
However, each lot had a minimum sale price of just £250. The items were sold because it was costing money to store them in China.
Last year, the UK spent £23 million storing PPE in China – or around £442,000 a week.
Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak sent ‘eye-watering sums of money to China’.
He added: ‘The waste is still going on. The Government is spending more on storing PPE in China each week than Manchester United pay for Cristiano Ronaldo’s wages.’
He said Labour would set up an ‘Office for Value for Money’ to check waste.
The recently sold items are just a tiny fraction of the billions spent on PPE items throughout the pandemic.
Earlier this year, officials revealed redundant PPE was being burned at a rate of 580 lorry loads per month. Pictured: Supplies at the NHS’ National Procurement Warehouse at Canderside, Larkhall in 2020
The Department for Health and Social Care has admitted making losses of £8.7 billion on PPE that was unusable, went past its sell-by date, or was overpriced.
Earlier this year, officials revealed redundant PPE was being burned at a rate of 580 lorry loads per month.
A health department spokesman said: ‘We continue to sell, donate, repurpose and recycle excess PPE in the most cost-effective way, as well as seeking to recover costs from suppliers wherever possible to ensure taxpayer value for money.
‘We are also exploring innovative solutions to reprocess excess PPE into materials or new products that have further uses.’
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