How many gloves is that?

1 minute read


Arguments about protective equipment for NHS workers won’t go away. A BBC documentary this week said the government’s claim to have distributed one billion items of protective equipment was based on counting each pair of gloves as two items.

Although the argument verges on farce, it’s one more example of how hard it is to count something – or rather that you can’t count something until you decide what you’re counting. And therein lies the difficulty.

And behind the debate over protective equipment (PPE) lies the increasing numbers of NHS workers who have died during the pandemic. My count is currently 120, although some counts are lower and others are higher.

In parliament on Tuesday, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Rachel Reeves asked how exactly the numbers added up inside the ‘one billion items’ claim.

How can the government claim to have delivered a billion items of PPE when this number included counting individual gloves and paper towels? Will the Minister provide to the House a breakdown of those one billion PPE items by type?

The government’s Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove supplied the required breakdown:

We have distributed in the course of this crisis 143 million masks, 163 million aprons, 1.8 million gowns and 547 million gloves. And depending on the surgical setting gloves are sometimes delivered in pairs or in groups of four or in different consignments.

However, regardless of however you count them, gloves are apparently not the problem as the BBC explained earlier this month.

mayo clinic tweet

In the United States, the vice-president Mike Pence is under fire after he made a trip to the famous Mayo Clinic and ignored their rule that all visitors should wear a face mask. Perhaps even more interesting is the question of why the hospital removed a tweet in which it confirmed that Pence had been told about the rules before his visit.

I’ve archived the tweet in case the Clinic needs to remember what it did and didn’t say.