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HSE CEO Paul Reid at today's briefing. Leon Farrell/

PPE will cost €1 billion this year, and number of Covid-19 patients in ICU has halved from peak

Some 120 million masks will arrive in Ireland from South Korea in the coming weeks.

ABOUT €1 BILLION is expected to be spent on personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Irish health service this year, HSE CEO Paul Reid has said.

Speaking at the HSE’s weekly Covid-19 briefing, Reid said there would also be significant costs associated with testing and contact tracing, but the cost of not investing would be much higher in the long run.

Reid said costs are “at a scale that nobody could have foreseen” a couple of months ago.

“Our projections are that those costs will be likely over a billion in a year,” he stated.

Reid said nine million masks are needed in Ireland every week. To put this many masks in context, he said it’s the equivalent of the height of 11 Liberty Hall (about 59m/195ft) buildings.

Reid said 60 flights carrying over 12 million items of PPE arrived in Ireland last week, adding that masks and gowns remain the hardest items to get.

He said we are “definitely not” at the stage where we can stockpile items.

Reid added that he will commission a report next week that will examine how to develop a sustainable model for testing and contact tracing in the future.

The HSE intends to roll out its contact tracing app by the end of this month.

Intensive care

As of last night, 72 people with Covid-19 were in intensive care units in Irish hospitals, 55% less than the recent peak of 160.

Overall, 543 people with Covid-19 were in Irish hospitals last night, plus a further 196 suspected cases.

Anne O’Connor, HSE COO, said that 161 ICU beds were still available last night, and 1,242 general hospital beds, down from 1,680 beds last week.

O’Connor said the fact fewer general hospital beds indicates that more non-Covid patients are presenting at Irish hospitals, following concerns people who needed medical help were avoiding hospitals because of the pandemic.

As of Thursday, there were 310 delayed discharges from hospitals, mainly due to a delay in being able to transfer patients to residential care facilities due to outbreaks of the virus in these settings.

In excess of 2,200 people have now been recruited into the health service to help respond to Covid-19, including over 1,000 students, O’Connor added.

The death toll from the virus in this country now stands at 1,446, and the total number of confirmed cases here is 22,760.

Dr Colm Henry, HSE CCO, said about 12,000 people would have died to date if Ireland had not taken the preventative measures it did to combat the spread of the virus.

Henry confirmed that the number of healthcare employees who have died from Covid-19 remains unchanged at five, extending his sympathy to loved ones.

Just over 3,000 healthcare staff are currently on Covid-19-related leave. Henry said healthcare workers remain a “priority group” for testing.


Reid said all 30,000 staff and 28,000 residents in Ireland’s 577 nursing homes have now been tested.

Some 61,000 tests have been carried out in residential care settings to date.

An analysis of the results is currently being carried out but the indication is that the overall positivity rate of Covid-19 is low, Henry said, despite clusters in certain facilities.

Reid said there needs to be a “relentless focus and support” in terms of vulnerable groups, noting that these people are most affected by Covid-19 in Ireland and abroad.

In Ireland, 1,700 asylum seekers are still sharing rooms with non-family members, despite Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan previously stating that is not possible for people living in these circumstances to physically distance during Covid-19.

The panel today said that health officials are working closely with the Department of Justice to ensure residents’ safety and move them to self-isolation facilities where needed.

Reid added that Ireland is on track to have the capacity to carry out 100,000 tests per week by next week, noting that labs currently have the capacity to carry out 15,000 tests per day.

He said the average turnaround time from when the swab is taken to when a person receives their results is 2.4 days, but acknowledged that some people are waiting longer and said more needs to be done in this area.

Reid also stated that the health service is now in a position to commence some non-Covid-19 services in a safe way. He said cancer and cardiology services and procedures such as transplants would be among those prioritised.

“We can now commence non-Covid services in hospitals, but it won’t be easy,” he said, adding that capacity needs to be kept under 80% so hospitals are not overwhelmed.

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