Northern Ireland now has “sufficient” personal protection equipment (PPE) for frontline workers, the health minister has said.
It comes as a shipment of 5.5m pieces of PPE was delivered to Northern Ireland on Monday.
Robin Swann visited the Boucher Road warehouse in Belfast which is storing 1,320,000 aprons and 307,800 FFP3 respirator masks.
A further delivery is expected later this week.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has said the PPE will be delivered to the health services “in the course of the day”.
Northern Ireland ‘Second surge’
Mr Swann confirmed that further supply is being sourced from the local economy.
“We are working extremely hard to secure more supplies, given anticipated future demand and the likelihood of a second surge later in the year,” said Mr Swann.
“I want to make clear that we have sufficient PPE supply for current demand and will continue to actively model projected demand.
“As I have stated, there’s not a country in the world that can definitively say it has enough PPE in stock, given the global uncertainty about the path this virus will take.
“We are continuing to proactively pursue all feasible PPE supply routes, both international and local.”
First Minister Arlene Foster said she had contacted Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the NI secretary to thank them for the delivery.
In a tweet, she added: “There is more to come. Now we need to ensure it gets to our wonderful staff on the frontline.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill welcomed the confirmation of the delivery in a tweet: “Spoke with @BrandonLewis this morning. I welcome the confirmed delivery of PPE consignment into North via Liverpool this morning.
“This stock (Aprons and FFP3 respirators) are in Belfast for distribution to our Health Service.”
Various masks are used in hospitals, and the FFP3 is one of the most protective.
More than 40 coronavirus patients are in intensive care and on ventilators in hospitals across Northern Ireland.
There are currently 165 ventilators in NI with a further 190 on order and an additional 650 breathing support machines ordered.
Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, Mr Lewis said he did not have “dates or a timeline” for the arrival of the ventilators, but add that “they will come through as they are needed”.
He added: “I am sure they will be there in good time.”
Many healthcare staff have been concerned at the availability of PPE.
Last week, it emerged that a joint order between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland had not been completed.
The Royal College of Nursing’s Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen told BBC News NI that “if nurses don’t have the PPE they will not be in a position to treat those patients”.
Under the nurses’ code of conduct and health and safety legislation, nurses cannot treat patients if they are not sufficiently protected from the virus.
On Monday, it emerged there had been seven more Covid-19-related deaths, bringing the total to 70.
It has also emerged that a Belfast hotel is to be used as a facility for patients recovering from Covid-19.
It will be used for those who require additional care before being fully discharged and allowed to go home.
A surge in cases is expected between 6 April and 20 April.
The Ramada by Wyndham Hotel is located beside St Anne’s Cathedral in the city centre.
Those patients who are over the worst of the illness, but still not quite fit enough to go home, will be cared for in the hotel.
The virus can leave patients feeling mentally and physically exhausted.
While they may no longer need medical treatment, they will be able to rest and be cared for in the facility by a range of healthcare workers including nurses.
Health authorities expect that about 180 patients will require intensive care as the virus peaks in Northern Ireland.
Those figures are only part of a plan and could change in either direction in the coming weeks.
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The current modelling in the Republic of Ireland, which has over two-and-a-half times the population of Northern Ireland, has plans for 546 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for the peak of the virus.
Looking beyond the first peak of the virus in Northern Ireland, the BBC understands that plans include providing 300 ICU beds.
Healthcare staff continue to call for more testing so, where possible, they can go back to work.
Last week, it emerged during a hearing of Stormont’s health committee that more than 2,000 staff are off due to either having symptoms or self-isolating due to family members being affected.
The BBC understands that approximately 250 Northern Ireland Ambulance Service staff are off work.
About 160 employees are absent due to Covid-19 and the rest due to other circumstances.
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