360 million masks and 993 respirators: the government's 'warehouse' to stop a pandemic rebound

In order to prevent a repetition of the shortages and shortages of medical supplies that occurred in March 2020 during the first weeks of the pandemic, the Government is working to set up a protective equipment warehouse. Currently the national strategic reserve has 1.8 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE), 993 mechanical ventilation devices, 1.8 million antigen tests, 350,600 sample collection kits and 557,300 antibody tests. Masks are added to these products: 287 million surgical masks, 73 million FFP2 units and 1.6 million FFP3 copies, according to information obtained by elDiario.es through the transparency portal.

The Ministry of Health details that this material is stored covered by "the early response plan", a strategy that "aims to prepare the National Health System (SNS) to be able to face possible increases in the transmission of Covid-19, providing it with a greater response capacity." According to this document, "The national reserve is conceived as a reinforcement of the strategic reserves that the autonomous communities are articulating."

Beyond the resources of the Ministry, the department of Carolina Darias "monitors the stock of material in the autonomous communities." The latest analysis was done with data from May 27. When compiling this information, they verified that "the availability" of these materials "has increased, in general, with respect to previous communications." The most recent estimate concludes that "in most of the autonomous communities" the reserve "is maintained at an adequate level" and, therefore, "is considered sufficient for two months".

During the first days of the pandemic, the shortage of masks, antigen tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) caused health workers and nursing home workers to attend with garbage bags and diving goggles to infected patients.

For its part, in the Intensive Care Units (ICU) the lack of respirators became one of the biggest concerns of health managers. "If we had known, we would have had sufficient reserves of protective equipment and respirators," said Verónica Casado, former Minister of Health of the Junta de Castilla y León, in The country remembering those weeks.

The plan also advocates that "invasive mechanical ventilation" respirators are not stored, but that they are "in use and ready in those spaces where the beds" of critical patients are to be deployed. The only equipment that does not remain operational, according to the strategy, are those that the usual health activity cannot absorb.

The pandemic has also forced the government to redefine the National Security law. The reform of this regulation, which is currently being processed in Congress, details the operation of the Strategic Reserve based on national industrial production capacities (Recapi). In this way, the Executive tries to "find solutions to guarantee the supply of essential or strategic resources, which allow the country to be self-sufficient" under exceptional conditions, pick up the bill.

With this measure, the Government is not only focusing on the health sector, it is also targeting industry and the economy. Among the elements that can be part of this strategic reserve are "electronic components, strategic materials, high-tech machinery, aerospace, semiconductors, essential chemicals, advanced agricultural equipment, communication technology or energy production."

Minister Félix Bolaños defended this proposal in the plenary session of Congress. In his speech, he assured that "the State learns from crises." "And it is the job of a responsible government to transfer that learning to the laws to improve them and leave a country better prepared than the one we are in to face any type of crisis in the future. It is not about having an instrument in case another crisis arrives. It is about having an effective instrument for when it arrives," Bolaños said in Parliament.

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