The first batch of British-made ventilators to treat coronavirus patients will be rolled out to the NHS next week, Michael Gove has said.
Thousands of them are going into production to bolster the 8,000 already deployed in hospitals, he announced.
Lots of countries are trying to source the essential machines, which provide oxygen for people suffering lung failure in severe COVID-19 cases.
Mr Gove reassured the public that ventilators have been bought in from abroad to tackle the pandemic and that the first wave manufactured in the UK will roll off the production line by the end of this weekend.
He tried to keep pressure up on people to stay at home to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus, calling the latest daily deaths rise of 393 “deeply shocking”.
Asked when lockdown measures might end, the Cabinet Office minister said: “There’s not a fixed date like Easter when you know that the peak will come, it depends on the actions of all of us.
“We can delay that peak, we can flatten the curve through our own particular actions.”
But NHS England’s medical director Professor Stephen Powis said a “bit of a plateau” in coronavirus infections could be “green shoots”.
“It is really important not to read too much because it is really early days,” he cautioned at the daily Downing Street briefing.
“We are not out of the woods, we are very much in the woods.
“So green shoots but only green shoots and we must not be complacent and we must not take our foot off the pedal.”
Some 10,767 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus in England, with 3,915 of those in London and 1,918 in the Midlands, where hospital admissions are accelerating.
Prof Powis said the overall signs were that the “Great British public” were heeding social distancing advice and reducing contact.
England’s deputy chief medical officer also apologised at the briefing for saying the government had sorted a problem repeatedly raised by medics about a lack of Personal Protective Equipment [PPE], such as masks and gloves.
Dr Jenny Harries said: “I have to admit, I stood here about 10 days ago and said – very probably optimistically in the past – ‘we’ve solved the PPE position’.
“So my apologies because 48 hours later our distribution issue had popped back in again.
“The distribution element has been a bit tricky at times.”
Thousands of frontline NHS staff wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson pleading for the equipment after two consultants were put on ventilators after contracting coronavirus from infected patients.
Medical dramas Holby City and Casualty have even had to prepare to send real doctors’ their medical equipment.