Face covering production in Lancashire gets under way as part of £14m Government investment
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The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said on Monday that suppliers in Blackburn in Lancashire, and Port Talbot, Wales, had started producing “high quality” face coverings, with another site in Livingston, Scotland, to begin in the coming weeks.
It is part of a Government drive to increase production of face coverings in the UK, he added.
Face coverings are already compulsory on public transport in England and the Government has made it mandatory to wear them in shops and supermarkets from July 24 to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Government guidance also encourages the wearing of face coverings in enclosed public spaces where it is less easy to socially distance or where people are more likely to come into contact with people they would not normally meet.
Mr Gove said: “This is a major step to ensure that this country can meet any increase in demand for face coverings by working with British firms to establish the capability, capacity and skills required to manufacture these items at scale.
“These production lines will be able to get millions of face coverings to the public, without putting any additional pressure on NHS supply chains.”
The Cabinet Office said the Government had bought 10 production lines, which include 34 tons of equipment and machinery, while a further 10 have been commissioned from Coventry-based automotive company Expert Tooling and Automation Ltd.
The manufacturers are expected to produce millions of masks a week, it added.
The first production lines are being established at the British Rototherm Group, in Port Talbot, Cookson & Clegg, in Blackburn, and Transcal, in Livingston.
The PA news agency understands that the 20 production lines bought by the Government are phase one while a second phase is expected to start producing in late August, with Government investment in both phases totalling £14 million.
The production sites will ensure that public demand for face coverings does not impact on the supply of higher-grade face masks for NHS frontline staff, the Cabinet Office said.
Orders for the coverings have already been placed by a number of public and private sector buyers and the Government is in discussions with a number of other retail companies on the purchasing of the items, it added.
The Cabinet Office said the materials for the production of the coverings would be sourced from UK manufacturers.
The coverings would be disposable, single-use coverings and would comply with the new face-covering specification with filtration in them.
PA understands that the Government expects to recover its £14 million investment in the production lines but will not make a profit.