Tees

Coronavirus: North East firms make ventilator parts and sanitiser

Molten metal being poured into a mould
Image caption The foundry is the last remaining in Middlesbrough

Hundreds of companies in the north-east of England have responded to the government's request to manufacture parts for medical ventilators.

Earlier this month it called on firms with relevant expertise to "help the country tackle this national crisis".

About 35,000 machines could be needed for coronavirus patients across the UK.

William Lane Foundry in Middlesbrough said it could "make parts for pumps, electric motors, valves, anything really to help out in this pandemic".

The work is timely as other contracts, including one for a heritage railway, are now on hold because of the situation.

Director Stuart Duffy said: "It's not just us in a crisis - there's a lot of small businesses not trying to slip over the horizon."

Image caption The distillery cannot make gin while it waits for equipment parts from China

Normal production at WL Distillery in County Durham is paused because the company's gin-making still needs parts from a Chinese factory that has had to shut.

The South Hetton firm is now producing hand sanitiser instead.

Owner Scott Wilson-Laing said: "We've had calls from frontline paramedics, NHS staff, police, a lot of charities within the Sunderland and County Durham area and individuals who were potentially in the risk category who were unable to locate any in the stores.

"We have been required to bring in some ingredients that we wouldn't necessarily use in our day to day work, such as glycerol and hydrogen peroxide, but the primary ingredient is extremely high strength ethanol which, obviously, as a distillery we have available."

On 16 March the government called on the manufacturing sector "and all those with relevant expertise who might be able to help to come together to help the country tackle this national crisis".

"We need to step up production of vital equipment such as ventilators so that we can all help the most vulnerable," Downing Street said.

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