UK Government ministers should be charged with "conspiracy to murder" due to the failure in obtaining enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare staff in the coronavirus crisis, author Philip Pullman has suggested.

The His Dark Materials writer said a radical reform must take place in the UK as a result of the outbreak, noting in an essay that "we must burn out the old corruption and establish a better way of living together".

Pullman wrote: "If it turns out to be true that the Government for Brexit-related reasons refused to take part in the procurement advantage offered by EU governments, thus making it harder for the NHS to deal with the Covid-19 and placing thousands of people at risk, the entire front bench ought to resign.

"But of course they won’t: they have not a single grain of shame.

"So they should be arraigned on charges of conspiracy to murder. Nothing less will do. They knew the risks, and thought they’d rather appease the foaming zealots of Brexit."

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The novelist also commented that it was "fitting that the Houses of Parliament are already falling down" at a time where change is required, suggesting that a transformation could begin there "to rebuild it on a better plan".

"All the absurd ceremony, all the pegs for hanging up your sword, all the fake drama created by deliberately not having enough seats for every member and crowding through lobbies to vote, all the contemptible pomposity that only serves to tickle the fancy of those addicted to history-porn, the blazing stupidity of maintaining seats for hereditary peers – away with it," he continued.

Pullman and his fellow Penguin authors, including Malorie Blackman and Lee Child, have been composing "perspective" essays in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as the UK death toll figures rose by 449 to 16,509 overnight, with UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak telling tonight's Downing Street briefing that the Government is "working hard to get the PPE our frontline NHS and social care staff need”.

He also insisted there were regular shipments despite the “unexpected delays” to the consignment from Turkey, which failed to arrive on Sunday.

“Today we unloaded a shipment of 140,000 gowns from Myanmar,” he said.

“We are, of course, continuing to pursue every possible option for PPE procurement.”

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