Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield are trying to ease health workers' concerns about personal protection gear such as gowns and masks by setting out the stocks in the country.

However, both conceded the distribution of it to those who needed it was still causing problems. Ardern said 640,000 masks had just been sent from the Ministry of Health's pandemic reserves to DHBs.

Over the next month four million would be dispensed to the health sector and a further four million to other essential workers who needed them, such as those who dealt with the public a lot.


Some doctors and nurses and other health workers such as midwives and in-home carers have raised concerns about the difficulty of securing adequate protective equipment as they deal with patients and clients during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some non-essential workers have also asked for more protection gear as they deal with members of the public.

Nurses in Auckland have also objected to being advised not to wear masks while working with patients who were not Covid-19 cases.


Bloomfield had repeatedly been asked what the stocks of personal protection items were, and on Friday he released full numbers for the first time in an apparent bid to reassure workers.

There were 1.9 million aprons and gowns, 2.7 million pairs of gloves and 60,000 sets of eye protection wear. There were also 18 million masks in the Ministry of Health's reserve, and five million around the district health boards.

Focus: Shoppers protect themselves with masks and gloves at Pakn'Save Paraparaumu. Video / Mark Mitchell

Ardern said the Government was also working to ensure an ongoing supply.

"We still have some work to do with the distribution aspect of PPE (personal protective equipment) but I know this is a priority for those who are leading the response operation, and will include normal supply networks as well as working with new private sector groups to grow our stocks."

The Covid-19 response team has enlisted former Air NZ chief executive Rob Fyfe to co-ordinate with the private sector.

Fyfe told Newstalk ZB that companies such as The Warehouse and toy company Zuru had good supply links internationally which they could call on, while Rocket Labs could potentially use its technology to help out.

Bloomfield said the Ministry was working on a priority list to ensure those who most needed protective gear would get it first. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website


The Ministry of Health was also issuing updated advice to health professionals on the appropriate use of the equipment, and when they did and did not need to use it to keep themselves safe. Similar advice would be given to other essential workers, such as those in supermarkets who had face-to-face contact with others.

It was also working on ways to ensure stock could be replenished, including working with the private sector.

"All stones are being turned over to make sure we keep our stocks at the levels that are needed to protect our health force and essential workers."

That included using a factory in Whanganui to make more masks. That factory was making 80,000 masks a day, both high level N95 masks and general surgical masks. It had new machinery arriving to allow it to double production.