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Minister: 'There's a special place in hell for those that try to make a quick buck in a global pandemic'

The minister said Ireland would remember any companies that ratcheted up the cost of healthcare equipment during a time of need.

Simon Harris speaking to reporters in the Dept of Health earlier today.
Simon Harris speaking to reporters in the Dept of Health earlier today.

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said “there is a special place in hell” for people who ratchet up the cost of healthcare equipment during a global pandemic. 

The cost of a ventilator in the US has soared from $25,000 to $45,000 because of increased demand and a nationwide shortage, the governor of New York has claimed today.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said today that various US states were inadvertently pushing up prices because each was competing against one another, reported The Independent

When asked if rising costs is a concern for Ireland and the EU, Harris said the European Commission and Ireland “need to keep a very close eye on that”.

“Anyone who seeks to extort additional money out of people, there is a special place in hell for them. In the middle of the global pandemic when we are trying to keep people alive and breathing. Anyone that sees this as an opportunity to make a quick buck, not in an innovative sense, but in an exploitative sense, we’ll remember them.

“We’ll remember them, we’ll remember them in this country,” he said. 

His comments come as an Aer Lingus flight that will be carrying some €20 million of personal protective equipment (PPE) back from China to Ireland tomorrow set off for Beijing today.

Aer Lingus flight EI9018 left Dublin Airport at 10.53 am this morning and landed in the Chinese capital just a short time ago

The Airbus A330-302 cargo plane will then be loaded with PPE including masks, gowns and goggles before it makes the over 8,000 km flight back to Ireland. 

The equipment, which will be back on Irish soil tomorrow, will be distributed to Irish healthcare workers tomorrow evening.  

Harris told reporters today that the majority of businesses are made up of “decent people” who care about the health and well-being of their workers, and others. 

On the price gouging, Harris added: “We’ll keep a close eye on it.”

He said his experience is that during this crisis people have been extraordinarily generous, stating that the government has been inundated with offers from businesses right across the country. 

The minister said Ireland is spending €225 million on PPE. 

Harris said today that the number of cases is being helped by social distancing and isolation, but the number of people in the ICU is concerning. 

As of last night, 71 people were in the ICU with Covid-19.

“That figure is going to continue to rise in the coming days,” said Harris. The objective iof the restrictive measures announced last night, is for a reduction on the reliance on ICU beds to be seen in the second week. 

“There measures are so restrictive and imposing I am not sure they can be sustained for much longer than we have asked people already to do,” said Harris. The measures will be reviewed on Easter Sunday.

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