Life
    Culture

    Word of the week: PPE

    17 April 2020

    Definition

    Personal Protective Equipment is worn to protect the user against health or safety risks at work.

    Derivation

    Millions of healthcare and social care workers are in urgent need of PPE to protect them from the risk of coronavirus infection. Aprons, gloves, surgical masks and eye protection are the minimum requirement.

    Workers have discovered to their horror that the PPE stock cupboards are dangerously bare. Although the reasons for this are, as yet, unclear, several rumours are doing the rounds. One theory is that the person in charge of pandemic preparation at Public Health England did prepare an email to send to all the NHS Trusts and care homes requesting them to stockpile, in preparation for a pandemic. However, he has recently discovered the email languishing in his ‘drafts’ folder.

    Another rumour points to NHS procurement managers who were aware of the pandemic but got distracted by a cat video on YouTube before completing the purchase order. Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Minister, oversaw a pandemic preparation exercise in 2016. The lessons were incorporated into the Pandemic Influenza Response Plan. Bin bags were suggested as a PPE backup plan by a forward thinking Whitehall official with an Oxford degree in PPE. The lessons were incorporated into the Pandemic Influenza Response Plan. Bin bags were billed as a sizeable step up from sack cloth and were mooted as a measure of last resort, but no-one got round to organising a follow-up meeting.

    Tragically, the surge in demand for PPE, along with the lack of preparatory stockpiling, has led to a shortage. Healthcare workers have duly used bins bags, snorkelling masks and anything they can find in the children’s dressing up box at home.

    Just as we start to exit from the lockdown, the backlog of orders for PPE will finally arrive. We will need to find a new use for mountains of plastic gloves, aprons and masks. The next London Fashion Week is likely to feature imaginative displays of plastic garments to popularise plastic jumpers, dresses and the wearing of masks.

    Celebrities may adopt ‘healthcare chic’ to be photographed as they enter fashionable nightclubs, late at night. Elizabethan PPE masked balls could become all the rage. Until now, the fashion world celebrated materials that were natural, organic and sustainable. In the future, single use plastic will be de rigeur.

    In a few weeks, lockdown will be lifted and we will gradually resume our life in the outside world. But, with the virus still present, how do we stay safe?

    Shoppers will have to dispense with their hessian ‘bags for life’, which harbour the virus and could be renamed ‘bags of potential death’. Single use plastic bags, formerly the scourge of the planet, are now a matter of practical safety.

    Use:

    “Where did you get your PPE gear? It’s so cool!”