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Summarises what we're doing to ensure people have the PPE they need to stay safe.

First published:
30 March 2020
Last updated:

What is personal protective equipment?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been designed to help protect a person against health or safety risks at work and to prevent the spread of infection from person to person via a heath or social care professional. It includes a wide range of items, including safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment.

PPE should be put on and removed in a specific order. The order for PPE removal is – gloves, apron or gown, eye protection, surgical facemask or FFP3 respirator mask. Hand hygiene must always be performed following removal of PPE.

PPE is important to help stop the spread of coronavirus and to protect frontline healthcare workers. Coronavirus is spread primarily between people through close contact and droplets, not by airborne transmission.

Are there different types of PPE?

PPE comes in a number of different forms depending on where it is being used, for example for doctors and nurses, ambulance staff, maternity staff.

Different types of PPE are used, according to the level of risk a person is exposed to in a particular setting or the procedure they are carrying out. For example, inserting a tube through a patient's mouth and into their airway and nebuliser treatments – a machine that delivers medicated mist to the lungs – poses a greater risk of exposure to the virus.

Should I wear a mask when out in public?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advice about wearing a mask outside health and care settings is as follows – wearing a mask can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including coronavirus. But the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection. Other measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene should be adopted.

At present, WHO recommends a risk-based approach is considered by decision makers when deciding in which settings and circumstances non-medical masks could be used in the community.

Do we have enough PPE in Wales for all who need it?

At the moment, we have enough PPE for frontline health and care workers in Wales. But this relies on the hard work of a lot of people to maintain supply chains.

Throughout the pandemic we have distributed high volumes of PPE  to the NHS and social care from our central and  pandemic stocks.

We are continuing to make regular deliveries to health boards and to local authorities for onward distribution to social care.

Is there a shortage of PPE and what is Welsh Government doing about it?

Coronavirus has put supplies of PPE under pressure around the world. Since the start of the pandemic, we have been working very hard to make sure we continue to have the right supply of PPE for Wales.

Fortunately, we have not reached the point where we have been unable to supply PPE to the NHS or to social care settings but some items have come under pressure.

Some of our regular international suppliers have cancelled contracts and we have worked hard to establish new ones.

In other cases, supplies are taking longer to arrive and in almost all cases the cost of PPE has risen.

Despite the challenging global context, an enormous amount of work is going on behind the scenes to secure continued supplies of PPE.

We are working to secure further substantial orders of PPE from a number of international suppliers. For example, two chartered flights carrying significant supplies of fluid resistant gowns arrived in Wales, from the Far East, in the last week of April. We also secured a supply of 10m masks.

Importantly, we are also working with Welsh companies to develop our own domestic PPE production capacity. We have had a tremendous response from Welsh businesses.

The demand for PPE will continue to be well above normal for the foreseeable future. The actions we are taking in Wales will ensure continued supply of PPE for the staff who need it.

What are you doing to make sure enough PPE is being provided to frontline workers

Ensuring health and social care workers have the correct PPE, when they need it, is an absolute priority.

We have provided PPE to the NHS and to local authorities for onward distribution to all social care settings in Wales from our central stores.

We have provided PPE to hospital and primary care staff, including to all pharmacies, emergency dental clinics, optometrists and GP surgeries.

We are making deliveries twice a week to local authority stores for onward distribution to social care settings. Unlike in England, PPE for care homes is free in Wales.

Do other essential workers need PPE to do their jobs?

The UK-wide guidance is about the use of PPE for health and social care workers. It clarifies it is not needed by everyone in wider community settings at all times. This means hygiene and social distancing measures offer adequate protection for other groups.

Specific guidance for people who are caring for the deceased is available. 

Are you using Welsh manufacturers to make more PPE?

We cannot simply rely on supplies from overseas – we have to have develop a home-grown supply of essential equipment. We want to support manufacturers in Wales, to keep us safe and to keep our communities strong, and we’re looking at how we can make more of the PPE we need closer to home.

We have been struck by the level of innovation and support offered from all parts of Wales to develop more PPE and new technology to tackle the outbreak.

We have had around 1,000 enquiries and offers of support from manufacturers to date, half of these have been about PPE or medtech.

We are already working with many Welsh businesses, which have offered their help and expertise to make PPE and other essential equipment for the NHS, including hand sanitiser.

For the first time, we are self-sufficient in scrubs in Wales – we’re making 5,000 a week, bringing back overseas jobs and anchoring them in the Welsh economy.

More information about how companies can help.  

What is the latest guidance for PPE in relation to coronavirus?

Updated UK guidance was published on 2 April, following a rapid review by Public Health England and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

The update has simplified the guidance in some places and reflects the fact coronavirus is now widespread in the community, meaning NHS and social care staff are more likely to care for people with the virus, some of who will not yet have symptoms.

The guidance also extended the use of PPE. It now goes beyond what is required by the World Health Organization (WHO) and provides extra reassurance to frontline staff, recognising their concerns and fears.

This presents additional challenges in meeting the greater demand for PPE but, in response, all UK countries are working on a four-nation approach to ensure ongoing supplies to meet our needs.

It is also important that the guidelines are followed properly and that PPE is used in accordance with the new guidance.

What evidence is the new guidance based on?

Precautions to prevent respiratory virus transmission are based on long-established infection prevention and control principles and the scientific studies that inform them.

The evidence about coronavirus transmission is under constant review as the pandemic evolves. To date, there is no new evidence to suggest that the route of transmission has changed or the methods required to prevent transmission need to change.