The ill-wind of coronavirus has blown a jobs bonanza to a Co Limerick company.
Due to a worldwide shortage of face masks, even the Chinese are queuing up to purchase masks made by Irema in Kilmallock.
Irema, a wholly owned Irish company, is busy recruiting new workers as it has to double output over the next week.
Marketing manager Kieran O’Brien said: “We have a full-time workforce of 50 and because of the worldwide demands for face masks we are in the process of adding another 15 as we need to ramp up our operation from 24/5 to 24/7. The last time we had to ramp up was when the Sars virus struck in 2003.”
Irema exports most of its masks internationally to western Europe and the Middle East. It also sells to China which is finding it hard to keep up stocks from its own manufacturers.
Mr O’Brien said: “Up to now we would manufacture about 1.3m masks a week and with demand due to the coronavirus we will need to double output to 2.6m masks a week.
“We supply the HSE with surgical face masks and also supply many manufacturing companies which need to have a clean-room work environment.”
Meanwhile, a hospital in the North plans to send patients to England for treatment. In all, three patients have tested positive for the disease so far.
Antrim Area Hospital is ready for drive-through testing for the virus and expects patients will receive results within four hours. They will be swabbed in the nose and mouth and then told to go home and self-isolate while awaiting the outcome.
Doctors are attempting to contain the spread of the virus until the summer, when it will be easier for hard-pressed health services to manage and the infection could go dormant.
Dr Seamus O’Reilly, medical director with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, said: “If the test comes back positive there is a very well-rehearsed process that we do in conjunction with our colleagues in England.
“We identify an infectious diseases bed in England, if possible, to transfer the patient to. If we cannot transfer the patient across for whatever reason, the infectious diseases beds in the Royal Victoria in west Belfast will be used for that purpose.”