THE UK will not be able to access the EU’s bulk-buy ventilator scheme during the coronavirus pandemic because of an “initial communication problem”, a Downing Street spokesperson has said.

Earlier today a spokesperson for the Prime Minister told reporters that the UK would not be joining the healthcare initiative because we are no longer a member of the EU.

The decision drew criticism from cross-party figures, with the SNP’s shadow foreign secretary and former MEP Alyn Smith branding it “appalling”. He claimed the Tories shutting the UK out of such a scheme is “the worst they’ve done yet”.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Anger as PM blocks UK access to EU ventilator scheme

But later, a UK Government spokesperson U-turned on the issue – claiming the UK wouldn’t be joining the initiative as it “did not receive an invitation in time”.

ITV’s Robert Peston suggested this meant the “government didn’t get or see the relevant emails”.

A UK spokesperson said: “Owing to an initial communication problem, the UK did not receive an invitation in time to join in four joint procurements in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As the Commission has confirmed, we are eligible to participate in joint procurements during the transition period, following our departure from the EU earlier this year.

“As those four initial procurement schemes had already gone out to tender we were unable to take part in these, but we will consider participating in future procurement schemes on the basis of public health requirements at the time.”

Earlier Downing Street insisted there are currently 8000 ventilators in the NHS and 8000 ore will be available in “the coming weeks”.

Smith also posted a graphic from the EU Delegation UK Twitter account demonstrating the ways the UK could be part of the EU’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.

The EU work cited included production of medical supplies, fighting against fraudulent products, research on vaccines and more.

Currently it seems the Government is keen to finish the Brexit transition period at the end of 2020 as originally planned. However, there have been calls to delay this because of the current coronavirus pandemic.