HUGE orders have been placed for Covid-19 testing equipment and protective gear for staff, Ireland’s top health service official has said.
The massive increase in demand is due to everyone with coronavirus symptoms being asked to self-isolate and await a check.
Almost 40,000 sample test kits are being distributed. Another 20,000 will be in Ireland by Wednesday, the health service said.
The Republic is at an advanced stage of negotiations with China to secure a further 100,000 and good progress is being made, it said.
Health Service Executive (HSE) chief executive Paul Reid said: “We are implementing this process at pace.”
The worldwide nature of the coronavirus pandemic means there is a lot of competition to secure supplies.
On Saturday night, 177 people were in Irish hospitals with Covid-19, up from 151 on Saturday morning.
A total of 11 million masks, one million face shields and one million goggles for workers are on order.
Another 400,000 gowns and suits are also being purchased.
Ireland usually spends 15 million euro a year on personal protective equipment, the health service said.
Its bill since January has already hit €60 million euro.
Plans for “field hospitals” for the less seriously ill have been put in place at hotels that have been closed due to the outbreak, the HSE said.
Templemore Garda training centre in Co Tipperary has also been made available and naval boats used for testing.
The aim is that people who are less sick can be treated outside of hospitals.
Mr Reid said: “The health system will be under stress like we have never known before.
“We are working around the clock to secure medical supplies. “It is a very difficult worldwide market and we are making progress.”
A total of 1,200 people are involved in contact tracing positive cases and a major recruitment campaign for new staff is under way.
Around 1,000 doctors have put their names forward, 200 of whom are not working in the healthcare system.
A total of 50 test centres are expected to be set up, Mr Reid said. He added: “We have flexibility and will go to areas in need.”
Intensive care unit (ICU) capacity at hospitals has been increased and progress is also being made in getting extra ventilators.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the Government will introduce an economic package that will go “well beyond what they have announced to date”.
He told RTÉ’s This Week that ministers will treat everyone equally. He added: “It will not separate those who have already lost their jobs from those who might lose their jobs next week.”