A flight carrying almost €30m in personal protective equipment for healthcare workers has landed at Dublin Airport this afternoon.
The round trip to Beijing, undertaken by Aer Lingus, arrived back just before 3pm with masks, gowns and gloves among the items on board.
It is the first of a number of flights delivering over €200m worth of PPE to the country.
And they are on the ground 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻The first delivery of €200m of PPE for our frontline. #EI9018 #EI9019 @AerLingus pic.twitter.com/nWmUOwdWg8
— Sands (@oh_sandie_) March 29, 2020
Air Traffic Control at Dublin Airport had a message for the crew as they came into land today.
They said: "EI9019 Fáilte abhaile. Dublin ATC are proud to be guiding you home today. On behalf of the IAA and the entire nation, I would like to express our appreciation for your efforts during this time.
"We have the red carpet rolled out on Runway 28 for you today so expect a straight in Approach."
#welcomehome "EI9019 Failte abhaile. Dublin ATC are proud to be guiding you home safely today. On behalf of the IAA and the entire nation I would like to express our appreciation for all you are doing during this time of need. Audio at https://t.co/8aduYZwCsc #covid19ireland
— IAA (@IAApress) March 29, 2020
Earlier this week, the Minister for Health Simon Harris said the country would buy in 13 years’ worth of protective equipment this year.
He said more equipment is expected to arrive on 10 similar flights before April 1st.
Mr Harris thanked the crew on today's flight, expressing his gratitude for their "huge teamwork" to secure the equipment and to sort the logistics.
He said the HSE would begin distributing the supplies this evening.
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
Speaking at an HSE COVID-19 media briefing at Citywest Hotel in Dublin today, Paul Reid, the CEO of the HSE, said the normal annual cost of this equipment is €15m, but the total order placed with China now stands at almost €210m.
He added that the most pressing issue facing the HSE this week had been the procurement of a "very significant delivery" of personal protective equipment for health workers.
It comes as 14 more people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the Republic have died, the Department of Health has confirmed yesterday.
It brings the total number of coronavirus related deaths in the country to 36, and represents the highest number of deaths in a single day to date.
Meanwhile, there have been 294 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ireland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases here to 2,415.
This article was updated at 3.02pm.