More than 75 years ago, the American auto industry recalibrated virtually overnight in response to the country’s entry into World War II, shifting from passenger cars to the production of everything from guns and engines to, in Ford’s case, complete military aircraft.
As world races to stem the growth of the coronavirus outbreak, officials in the U.K. are now calling for a similar effort from its domestic manufacturers.
The BBC reports that the government is in talks with several of the country’s industrial giants in hopes that they could dedicate some of their operations to producing ventilators for the country’s National Health Service.
Although the virus results in mild to moderate symptoms in the vast majority of cases, officials worry that a spike in severe cases could overwhelm local health systems. British health officials say the county is likely to need “many times” the roughly 5,000 ventilators it currently houses.
The report said construction equipment maker JCB, auto parts manufacturer Unipart and aerospace engine maker Rolls-Royce, among others, were involved in discussions with the government, but it’s not clear how those companies would be able to transition to making medical equipment, and no concrete plan to significantly bolster ventilator production is currently in place.
Still, officials called for any manufacturers capable of making the switch to do so. The government set up a hotline for prospective ventilator makers, and one member of Parliament said the government had been “inundated with offers.”
For those without engineering expertise, the advice from health officials continues to be relatively simple: stay home.