Defence firm Babcock (BAB.L) is to produce 10,000 ventilators to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic in the UK.
An insufficient number of ventilators to treat coronavirus patients with serious symptoms is seen as one of the major problems facing the NHS in its fight against the coronavirus.
Babcock said in a statement that it had “responded quickly to the UK prime minister's UK Ventilator Challenge.”
The defence firm, which is one of the British Army’s largest contractors, is the latest industrial giant to join manufacturing effort after Boris Johnson appealed to companies to help in a “wartime” effort to produce ventilators for the NHS.
“We are proud to have been awarded a contract by the Cabinet Office to manufacture 10,000 Zephyr Plus ventilators, subject to regulatory approvals; a product being developed in collaboration with an established major international supplier of critical care ventilators,” Babcock said.
The supplier, thought to be based outside the UK, has asked not to be named.
Read more: Dyson to develop ventilators for the NHS
It is thought that the ventilators could be manufactured at Babcock’s factories in Scotland and south-west England.
Several companies, from tech firms to carmakers, have been repurposing factories and shifting production to help make vital medical equipment and supplies for hospitals across the globe.
Vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson said it had also received an order for 10,000 of the breathing machines as it worked “round the clock” with medical technology and development company The Technology Partnership to develop a new ventilator.
The order is still subject to the devices passing stringent medical tests.
A consortium of industrial, tech, and engineering companies in the UK, including Airbus (AIR.PA), BAE Systems (BA.L), Meggitt (MGGT.L), Ford UK (F), Rolls-Royce (RR.L), several UK-based Formula 1 teams, Siemens Healthineers (SHL.F), and Unilever (UL) have pooled their skills and resources to co-develop medical ventilators for the NHS based on an existing design.
While it waits for the new ventilators to be produced, the government is buying as many existing models as it can, according to the BBC.
The government is trying to acquire 8,000 ventilators from existing domestic and international suppliers to add to the 8,000 already in use by the NHS.
It is estimated that the NHS will need at least 30,000 to cope with the potential number of coronavirus patients.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson told the BBC's Today programme: “We need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
“When it comes to miles eight to 10, those ventilators that are currently being procured and ordered from around the world will be very helpful, although the lack of ventilation available right now is a real issue.”