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PPE supplier calls for co-ordinated response before schools reach crisis

PUBLISHED: 14:46 14 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:46 14 May 2020

Steve Earl of Panel Graphic, which makes face visors, has warned that schools may face the next PPE crisis. Picture: Panel Graphic

Steve Earl of Panel Graphic, which makes face visors, has warned that schools may face the next PPE crisis. Picture: Panel Graphic

Panel Graphic

A Norfolk business which switched production to supply 250,000 face shields has warned of a new spike in the PPE crisis.

The visors have been adapted to be as transparent as possible, and more approachable. Picture: Panel GraphicThe visors have been adapted to be as transparent as possible, and more approachable. Picture: Panel Graphic

Specialist plastic manufacturers Panel Graphic has been flooded with enquiries from parents and teachers, concerned about their children returning to school following Boris Johnson’s announcement.

The prime minister said this weekend that schools may start to reopen as early as June 1 – prompting concern from the public about what this would look like.

Owner Steve Earl believes that “history is going to repeat itself” – as was seen with the NHS PPE shortage – and that “if this matter is not addressed immediately we will be putting members of our teaching community and the children at a great risk”.

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He explained: “Just imagine how our children will feel when they return to school. They have spent many weeks being shielded by parents and will potentially feel like they have been thrown into school, scared and concerned, surrounded by teachers in face masks.

“This would mean the children have no sight of expressions on their teachers faces, plus communication could be muffled and difficult to understand. In fact, it will make it seem more like a hospital than a school.”

Mr Earl and his Loddon-based team have pivoted the business from making display enhancement windows to creating full-face visors which are transparent and can be cleaned with surgical fluids – and they produced them at cost meaning the company has made no profit from the PPE.

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He added: “What frustrates me is that this is completely unnecessary, with a little co-ordination we would be able to supply every single teacher in the country with protective face shields that cost less than £3 each.”

The Panel Graphic team have also received donations of thousands of pounds, meaning some schools could be given visors without any charge through a co-ordinated response.

The designers have even changed the design to make it more child-friendly, making the plastic as transparent as possible and adding novelty head bands.

He said: “We are ready and prepared to help the education authorities - which was unfortunately not the case for our fabulous NHS staff at the very beginning of this pandemic.”


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