Forty new ventilators ordered as NI health service gears up for Covid-19

Forty new ventilators have been ordered in Northern Ireland to keep patients breathing while they fight coronavirus.

Manufacturers should consider switching production lines to further increase the number of life-saving machines available, Stormont health minister Robin Swann said.

A total of seven new Covid-19 cases were announced on Monday, bringing the overall tally to 52.

Mr Swann said: “Be under no illusion what is coming down the road at us.”

Health service providers are “down-turning” non-essential work to target Covid-19.

Ventilators are machines designed to put oxygen into the lungs of patients with acute respiratory difficulties.

Coronavirus can create serious breathing problems if it causes lung failure.

Non-essential medical procedures are to be postponed as the NHS ramps up its response to the virus.

Mr Swann added: “We will come to a point where we won’t be using operating theatres.

“We will be able to use the ventilator points there to ventilate patients when we get to that stage.”

Mr Swann said 88 intensive care unit (ICU) beds were available and there were plans to expand that to 126 adult beds.

A total of 139 ventilators are available and Mr Swann asked if anyone in Northern Ireland could help produce more by “reprofiling” their manufacturing equipment.

Rolls Royce and the JCB construction equipment manufacturer in Great Britain have said they can do so.

Forty new ventilators have been ordered for Northern Ireland, 30 for adults and 10 for children, increasing the total to 179 by the end of the month, the health minister said.

The total number of tests completed in Northern Ireland is 1,171.

People with mild symptoms – new persistent cough and/or fever – were urged to stay at home and self-isolate.

They will not require testing and will not be included in testing totals, Stormont’s health department said.

The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, which provides services in parts of Co Down near Belfast, said it was “down-turning” non-urgent activity.

It said: “This will include non-urgent consultant-led outpatient appointments, day cases and inpatient and diagnostic work.

“This downturn will allow staff to focus on preparations and the training required to care for Covid-19 suspected and confirmed cases.

“It will also ensure that sufficient capacity is released to address any increase in demand for services.”

Meanwhile, extra regular cleaning has been introduced on buses and trains, infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon said.