THE FIRST plane carrying essential personal protective equipment (PPE) from China has touch down at Dublin airport.
The Aer Lingus Airbus A330 arrived back in the Irish capital just before 3pm on Sunday, carrying an estimated 11 million protective masks, 2.3 million eye protectors, 2.4 million gowns and nine million gloves.
All of the PPE received is thought to adhere to World Health Organisation standards.
It returns just over a day after setting off for Beijing, with Aer Lingus pilots completing the incredible round trip without disembarking from the aircraft.
This first batch of PPE comes as part of a €208m agreed with suppliers in the Far East.
That represents a significant increase on the normal €15m Ireland spends on PPE and is a signal not only of the seriousness of the situation but the government’s determination to ensure supplies are in place.
Paul Reid, CEO of the HSE, outlined the significant scale-up in purchasing being seen.
“We would normally procure 500,000 masks a year,” he told the Irish Examiner.
“This year, up to the end of May with our delivery we’re planning to procure over 36m masks. On eye protections, we normally procure 200,000 a year; we’ll be procuring 24.4m. On gowns, we will normally procure 100,000 gallons per year; we’re procuring over 24m this year by May.
“And gloves, we normally procure 4m and our plan is to procure 56m.”
Under the plans, Irish pilots will complete 10 flights between Dublin and Beijing to ensure healthcare workers on the frontline of Ireland’s battle with coronavirus are properly protected.
Footage of the plane landing back in Ireland was fast to emerge on social media.
Thank you so much to @AerLingus & crew of E19019 for collecting personal protective equipment for Ireland & flying it back. Huge team work to secure this equipment & to sort logistics. @HSELive will start distributing it tonight. More flights with PPE in coming days #coronavirus
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) March 29, 2020
Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris was also among the first to thank those involved for their efforts, praising the 'huge teamwork to secure this equipment and to sort logistics.”
He added “HSE will start distributing it tonight” with “more flights with PPE in coming days.”