Coronavirus: No shortage of facemasks, health officials insist

The Ministry of Health insists doctors and nurses have enough gear to handle the extra demand created by the coronavirus outbreak.

As of Saturday New Zealand has 52 confirmed cases of COVID-19, two of them not yet linked to overseas travel.

There have been reports of shortages of essential items like hand sanitiser and face masks, as panic-buying sets in across the country. Some healthcare workers have also reportedly dug into their stocks only to find the gear has expired. 

"Yes some DHBs did find that some stores they'd set aside had expired, but we were able to replace that," Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"All DHBs either have or have access to all the [personal protective equipment] they will ever need." 

In addition to the 18 million masks he says are in storage, there is capacity to produce 200,000 more a day right here in New Zealand.

Simon Shepherd and Ashley Bloomfield.
Simon Shepherd and Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

For supplies we need from offshore, Dr Bloomfield said they have "really good" supply chains with places like Singapore, which is producing tests for the disease.

Trade Minister David Parker said on Saturday morning New Zealand and Singapore have agreed to keep trade flowing "and to remove any existing trade restrictive measures on essential goods, especially medical supplies".

This is an important collective response, and will help ensure New Zealand and Singapore can access the important goods and medical supplies we need in this time of global crisis," Parker said. 

Like New Zealand, Singapore has managed to prevent community transmission so far. 

"It's in our mutual interest to ensure trade lines remain open, including via air and sea freight, to facilitate the flow of goods including essential supplies," said Parker.

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