Lithuania is buying almost 2 million respirators from China, with the shipment expected to be delivered within two weeks, Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said on Friday.
"This is the largest quantity Lithuania has ever had," Veryga told LRT. "This quantity will be enough to provide respirators to health workers who are not dealing directly with infected or suspected patients, too."
Veryga said the procurement documents were finalised on Thursday. He expects the shipment to reach Lithuania in less than two weeks. "Once the respirators are ready, [...] Lithuania will be ready to arrange for them to be quickly transported by air," he said.
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The Health Ministry said on Friday itts order from China also includes 810,000 safety glasses, 1.8 million disposable caps, 1.8 million disposable gowns, 1.05 million disposable overalls, 15 million disposable gloves, and 3.6 million disposable overshoes.
Also, the Health Emergency Situations Centre has signed a contract to purchase 80,000 FFP3 respirators from Jugrita, a Lithuanian medical supplies company.
The Health Ministry said on Friday that the first deliveries to Lithuania under the contract with Jugrita were to be made this week, with the rest to be shipped within the coming week.
Lithuania has also submitted an application to purchase 300,000 respirators, 1 million disposable masks and 400 artificial ventilation devices through a centralised procurement procedure organised by the European Commission.
The ministry did not say how much the protective gear would cost.
As the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and those tested for the virus continues to increase in Lithuania, health workers complain of a shortage of protective gear.
Supply chains disrupted
Meanwhile, a shipment of reagents needed to test for Covid-19 has not yet reached Lithuania amid disruptions in the supply chain.
"The reagents have been shipped out but have not yet arrived," Vytautas Zimnickas, the director of the National Public Health Surveillance Laboratory (NVSPL), told BNS. :Supply chains are breaking down. We are following the situation and trying to coordinate."
Coordination efforts are being hampered by the time difference between Europe and Asia, among other factors, he added.
Lithuania has ordered large quantities of reagents from China and South Korea.
"We should receive over 10,000 in total, but I don't know how many [will be actually delivered]," Zimnickas said.
The Health Ministry said earlier this week that over 10,000 reagents were expected to reach the NVSPL on Tuesday, with another 20,000 to be delivered next week.
It said various suppliers had been contracted to deliver 60,000 reagents in total. According to the NVSPL director, there is no shortage of reagents in the country, at least for now.
“We still have stocks. All regional laboratories are fully operational and we are not suspending any testing," he told BNS.
Zimnickas confirmed that the authorities are looking for possibilities to produce reagents in Lithuania.
"Seeing the situation in the world, not just in Europe, and knowing that there are very few specialised manufacturers, were are looking at all options. Local production is being considered. I think we will have positive news shortly," he said.
According to the director, Lithuania can currently perform up to 1,000 Covid-19 tests daily. He said the aim is to increase the capacity to at least 4,000 tests.
The NVSPL has a daily capacity of up to 210 tests. However, four hospital laboratories have been authorised to perform coronavirus tests this week, and drive-in stations that collect samples for Covid-19 testing are starting to operate in major cities and towns.
However, due to a lack of testing kits, the Health Ministry has suspended the opening of mobile testing points in seven cities. The drive-in stations will only operate in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda.
Lithuanian foreign minister calls for EU decision on supplies
A joint European decision is necessary on shipments of medical supplies, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said on Friday.
"When we had a video conference with the Nordic, Baltic and German counterparts, when we spoke with the Poles in Warsaw, we always stressed the need to prioritise food products and medical supplies, including reagents," the minister told BNS on Friday.
"We always said a European decision is necessary," he added. "There are plans but obstacles often arise."
Linkevičius said every effort is being made for the testing reagent shipment to reach Lithuania as soon as possible.
Lithuania's Utenos Trikotažas starts producing protective masks
Lithuania's textile manufacturer Utenos Trikotažas said on Friday it is starting production of protective masks. The company said its fabric masks have not been certified for medicinal use, but can be used as additional protective gear.
"In response to the unprecedented situation, our technologists have developed the best product we can make with the available resources," Utenos Trikotazas CEO Petras Jašinskas said in a press release.
Utenos Trikotažas now plans to manufacture over 70,000 masks and may expand production if it does not run out of raw materials.
The company will donate the first batch of masks to the local hospital in Utena, eastern Lithuania.