London tailors swap costume designing to make medical uniforms

LONDON (Reuters) – As Britain faces a shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers battling the coronavirus outbreak, London’s tailors are putting their cutting and sewing machines to use to fill the void.

The British government has faced repeated criticism from National Health Service staff that doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are facing shortages of masks, gloves and other protective equipment.

In response, a group of more than 50 professional and amateur sewers have formed a group called the South London Scrubbers, which is distributing hundreds of medical uniforms, masks and kit bags to local hospitals.

Ian Costello, 53, usually makes uniforms, which have featured in James Bond and Batman films and major London theatre productions. But since closing his business because of the national lockdown, the former Savile Row tailor has been making medical clothing.

“The country is in crisis and people need to help out,” he said. “People are banding together and trying to do something. It is a feel-good factor for everyone.”

The sewers range from teenagers to a lady in her nineties. Some are working from their dining tables or living-room floors. There are other volunteers involved in organising the supply chains and delivering the uniforms.

The British Medical Association warned earlier this month that doctors and nurses treating patients with COVID-19 are putting their lives at risk because of a lack of protective kit for frontline staff.

Britain’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said last week there is enough personal protective equipment nationally, but there are local shortages.

Sarah Trindle is one of the sewers, who normally runs a clothing and alterations company. She said that it is essential that medical staff are given the best possible uniforms.

“I just felt very passionately that you wouldn’t send a soldier to the front line without proper equipment,” she said. “I felt passionately that these scrubs should be made up professionally, finished to the highest standard.”

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