New figures from an Oireachtas Budget Office shows that Ireland is actually exporting vast quantities of material which could, with modifications, be used for testing in the Coronavirus pandemic.
Along with a lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), one of the most infuriating and difficult aspects of this crisis has been the government’s the failure to roll out testing for the virus.
The Department of Health says it there is a shortage of reagents essential to producing Covid-19 testing kits.
But figures released today from the Oireachtas Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) show we are, in fact, producing vast quantities of reagents – but its mostly being sent abroad, even at a time when our own national coronavirus crisis is deepening.
“The (WCO) World Customs Organisation also provides codes for materials that can be used in COVID-19 testing kits (e.g. reagents),” the reports reads.
“However, as diagnostic tests for COVID-19 were only developed in 2020, these exports were used to diagnose other illnesses. It’s unclear whether or not these products could be used to test for
COVID-19, it is likely that significant adjustments would need to be made,” it continues.
So we have the capacity, but the fruits of that capacity are flowing out of the country, mostly because the reagents are being made by multinationals who are exporting the products abroad.
The figures show that, in terms of reagents Ireland is the second largest exporter in the EU after Germany – exporting €17.7 billion of reagent material and other medical products in 2019.
Surely it is past time for the government to take an urgent look at Ireland’s current inability to produce what we need in this crisis for our own people, even as vast quantities of reagent which could be crucial to our response are being exported.
With all the talk of nationalising the health service, we might consider what we need to do to build up our protective equipment production capacity.
Update: The initial version of this article did not reference the caveat provided by the PBO note on the modifications that would need to be made to Irish produced reagent material in order for it to applicable to Covid-19 Testing Kits. The article has now been amended to to reflect that caveat. This was a genuine oversight on my behalf, one I am happy to acknowledge and correct. – David Mullins
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