Report highlights Ireland's 'worrying' reliance on other countries for PPE supply

Report highlights Ireland's 'worrying' reliance on other countries for PPE supply

Ireland's trade deficit for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the seventh largest in the EU.

A new report by the Parliamentary Budget Office lays out in stark terms how Ireland's lack of domestic supply of PPE, which includes items such as masks, gowns, gloves, face shields and eyewear worn by medical staff when treating patients, has affected the coronavirus response.

Ireland relies heavily on other countries for PPE equipment, and in 2019, it imported €340m more of PPE products than it exported, the seventh largest trade deficit for PPE in the EU.

Germany is the largest exporter of PPE, followed by Italy, France and Spain.

While the majority of Ireland's imports come from the EU (63%), the State is heavily reliant on other markets, too.

70% of Ireland’s 2019 PPE imports relied on just four countries, the UK accounts for the largest share (31%) followed by the US (19%), Germany (11%) and China (8%).

This fact has been described as "worrying" in the report, as all four of these countries have been severely affected by the pandemic and have a significant number of cases themselves.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic many countries have faced shortages, resulting in new restrictions on companies selling these goods outside of the EU.

Health professionals and the public have been flagging concerns about the availability of PPE in Ireland since the beginning of the crisis.

Officials from the Department of Health and government ministers have long cited a "competitive worldwide market" for the equipment, meaning Ireland is often in a race with other countries to have orders placed.

Doctors have urged the Government to come clean over how long it will take to address problems with some Chinese coronavirus protective equipment that was delivered last week.

A long-awaited €200m order saw plane-loads of kit arriving in Ireland only to be described as not fit for purpose.

Health chiefs have acknowledged supplies in some cases are different from what Irish medics are used to.

They are attempting to source additional equipment.

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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