LONDON -- Britain said on Friday that an engineering consortium that includes automakers had come up with an emergency ventilator prototype to fight the coronavirus outbreak, which should be approved for use in hospitals by the end of next week.
British companies have formed three teams, led by aerospace engineer Meggitt and automakers McLaren and Nissan to pursue the rapid production of ventilators.
A source familiar with the manufacturing situation told Reuters that the prototype would be available next week with manufacturing to start in 4 weeks' time.
As part of the effort, McLaren is looking at how to design a simple version of a ventilator and Nissan is working to support existing ventilator producers.
Separately in Italy, Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are in talks with Siare Engineering, the country's biggest ventilator manufacturer, to help to boost production of the life-saving equipment.
Italy is at the epicenter of the pandemic and its government has embarked on a big expansion of the number of intensive care beds, many of which will require ventilators to keep patients alive by taking over breathing functions.
The UK's existing stock of around 5,000-8,000 ventilators is inadequate. Given such an acute shortage in a country with a population of 67 million, the British government scrambled to ask top engineering companies to retool their production to make ventilators.
"More than half a dozen companies have already made one in prototype, to check with us that we are happy with the quality," health minister Matt Hancock said.
Hancock said he hoped the new ventilators would be approved for use in hospitals by the end of next week. "I would be surprised if it was longer than then," he said.