SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP has said that Executive Ministers must urgently scale up their action to procure and provide an adequate supply of Covid-19 tests and PPE for frontline staff.
The Foyle MP said that all frontline healthcare workers should be tested to ensure that self-isolation regulations are not artificially reducing the available workforce and to ensure that those who contract the virus are treated as quickly as possible.
Mr Eastwood said that the procurement of new tests and PPE must be accelerated urgently and called on the Finance Minister to detail the work that has been undertaken in conjunction with the Irish Government.
Colum Eastwood MP said: “The advice from the World Health Organisation when the scale of this pandemic became clear was to use testing as our primary defence tool. By that measure, our response to the coronavirus crisis has been deeply inadequate.
“The restrictive testing regime cannot continue. We need to scale up provision significantly to include healthcare workers and other key staff to ensure that essential services are operating as effectively as possible. The last thing we need is for healthy doctors, nurses and carers to be forced from the front line for 7-14 days because of symptoms that aren’t actually the virus. We also owe it to those healthcare workers, who are rushing toward this crisis to save lives, to do all in our power to test and treat them as quickly as possible.
“The British Government’s cautious approach has been deficient. Our Executive must plot a more robust course that defends essential services and protects those who are risking the most to get us through this crisis. I know that our SDLP Minister has been making this case.
“The Finance Minister needs to urgently detail the procurement work that his Department has undertaken to ensure an enhanced supply of critical equipment. We have been assured that work is ongoing with the Irish Government in this regard. We need to know how much equipment we will receive, how quickly and how it will be managed. A flight landed yesterday in Dublin - what supply for the North was on it?
“We need an increased supply of testing equipment, urgent action to enhance testing capacity and new testing centres as an immediate priority. We know we need more ventilators and that more are being developed - we need to know all the facts now. How many have been ordered, when will they be delivered and will it meet demand? Government has moved quickly to protect businesses and our economic interests. We must now prove that we have the same agility to prioritise public health.”