The German government agreed on Monday to set up 19 locations for medical gear storage in order to avoid the lack of masks and other protective equipment faced by most of the world at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

’s government plans to spend around €1 billion ($1.2 billion) next year creating 19 “national health reserves” around Germany to ensure Europe’s leading economy is better prepared for any upcoming health crisis, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

“The pandemic has taught us to take more precautions,” he told reporters.

The storage centers will include supplies of personal protective gear, such as masks, as well as medicines and ventilators for patients with respiratory issues.

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The aim is for each assembly to contain enough supplies for a month for local hospitals, care homes and other clinics.

Initially the sites will be filled with items already available or ordered, including medical accessories coming from China.

But from 2022, the aim is to rely more on equipment “made in Germany,” Health Minister Spahn said.

ICU shortage concerns

Meanwhile, Spahn also highlighted the need for lower numbers of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, as he expressed concerns over intensive care units rapidly filling up in hospitals. Though occupancy was not at capacity on Monday, Germany almost doubled its ICU capacity earlier in the year in anticipation of increased need.

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Spahn’s worries come as reports emerged from medical staff that they could still cope, but only under immense stress for all involved, whether that be doctors, nurses or cleaners.

According to the German Association for Anaesthesiology and Intensive Medicine (DIVI), some 1,300 hospitals across the country have reported having 5,900 beds available in their ICUs, with the occupancy rate now approaching 4,000 and rising.

jsi/msh (AFP, dpa)

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