Minister: Coronavirus protective equipment supply difficult, not impossible

Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center).
Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Public administration minister Jaak Aab (Center) says that getting hold of personal protective equipment in the continuing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is increasingly difficult, although not impossible. Some raw materials including ethanol used in disinfectants will soon be produced domestically, he added.

Aab was appointed head of emergency operations on Friday, and has as his role ensuring the availability of disinfectants and personal protective equipment in sectors outside the health care and social care system, though finding sufficient protective equipment even for these latter key groups will prove difficult, he said.

Disinfectants and personal protective equipment (protective masks, gloves and suits) must be provided to medical personnel as well as other first responders who have come in contact with possible infections, plus well as social workers and risk groups themselves. 

"Finding these resources is difficult because there are different constraints around the world and traditional supply chains are not working. Demand has also increased dozens of times over," Aab said on Saturday.

The disinfectant procurement contract was signed by the Ministry of Finance and is awaiting the manufacturer's signature.

"At the beginning of the new week, probably on Tuesday, the production and delivery of disinfectants will start. As a result of this procurement, nearly 200,000 liters of disinfectants for hands and surfaces will be produced and delivered to sites within two weeks. Estonian producers are involved too, who have also secured the supply of raw materials. A distillery at Rakvere will be launched in the near future to produce ethanol needed for disinfectants," Aab added.

The need to find a short and long term suppliers of personal protective equipment is clear and present, and the finance ministry has already identified a number of potential suppliers of face masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment , to be ready within one to two weeks. The Estonian embassy in China is also working to obtain resources there. Large proportions of protective equipment used so far are made in China. Around 10 million masks are required in Estonia alone, Aab said.

"We need an urgent solution. Both the Police and Border Guard (PPA) and the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) are running low on supplies, not to mention the local governments and other bodies that come in contact with potential infections," Aab said.

A respirator manufacturer located in the eastern Estonian town of Sillamäe is able to increase its production capacity, and will be doing so in conjunction with the Health Board (Terviseamet), Aab said, with further details on how this will work likely to come in early next week.

The contract for the supply of disinfectants has been signed by the Ministry of Finance and is awaiting other signatures before going forward, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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