In 1914 the UK was so underprepared for the outbreak of war that new recruits marched in mismatched clothes because dye used to colour British Army khaki uniforms had been imported from Germany. The UK was forced to manufacture its own. As with chemicals then, so with medical ventilators now.

These devices are essential for treating victims of coronavirus. Unsurprisingly, there is a global shortage. Penlon and Breas, two companies that manufacture ventilators in the UK, cannot cover local demand. More than 20,000 may be needed shortly. The National Health Service has a stock of 5,000.

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