A flight from China carrying protective equipment for healthcare workers battling the coronavirus arrived yesterday in Ireland.
The Aer Lingus Airbus A330 touched down at Dublin Airport just before 3pm. It was the first of dozens of flights the Irish carrier will make to bring consignments of personal protective equipment (PPE) from Beijing.
The Irish Government has a struck a deal with Chinese PPE suppliers worth almost €210m (£188m).
The first batch of the order, worth €28m, is being transported on 10 Aer Lingus flights, the last of which will fly on Wednesday. It contains 11 million protective masks, 2.3 million eye protectors, 2.4 million gowns and nine million gloves.
The second batch is anticipated to be ready for collection later in the week, with planes expected to fly back and forth to Beijing on a regular basis until mid summer.
The first crew, which was not allowed to disembark in China, volunteered to take part in the PPE collection mission.
Ireland has increased its normal €15m annual outlay on PPE to €225m to cope with the demand due to Covid-19.
Paul Reid, CEO of the HSE, outlined the scale-up involved.
"We would normally procure 500,000 masks a year," he said.
"This year, up to the end of May with our delivery we're planning to procure over 36 million masks.
"On eye protections, we normally procure 200,000 a year; we'll be procuring 24.4 million. On gowns, we will normally procure 100,000 gallons per year; we're procuring over 24 million this year by May.
"And gloves, we normally procure four million and our plan is to procure 56 million.
"Obviously we're as anxious as everybody, including our staff, to see every one of those flights come in with that delivery."
Mr Reid said the first batch had been expected by Irish Government officials and deemed to meet World Health Organisation standards. The Northern Ireland Executive is also securing PPE from China as part of a joint order with the HSE.
The first flight attracted much public attention.
Officials from both China and Ireland provided regular Twitter updates on its progress as it made the journey.
Health Minister Simon Harris said: "We are doing everything that is humanly possible to secure as much personal protective equipment as we can."