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First consignment of £60m Chinese PPE order arrives in NI

The order contains 63 million respirator masks and 55 million pairs of gloves.

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A member of medical staff dons PPE at Craigavon Area Hospital in Co Armagh (Niall Carson/PA)

A member of medical staff dons PPE at Craigavon Area Hospital in Co Armagh (Niall Carson/PA)

A member of medical staff dons PPE at Craigavon Area Hospital in Co Armagh (Niall Carson/PA)

The first consignment of a £60 million PPE order from China has arrived in Northern Ireland.

The batch of personal protective equipment comprises 1.5 million respirator masks.

In total, 63 million of the Type 11R masks have been purchased, along with almost 55 million pairs of gloves.

The remainder of the consignment will be delivered in a phased basis over coming weeks.

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Belfast Trust staff working with existing stocks of PPE at its storeroom on the grounds of Belfast City Hospital (Liam McBurney/PA)

Belfast Trust staff working with existing stocks of PPE at its storeroom on the grounds of Belfast City Hospital (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Belfast Trust staff working with existing stocks of PPE at its storeroom on the grounds of Belfast City Hospital (Liam McBurney/PA)

The purchase was a joint endeavour between the Department of Health, Department of Finance and the Executive Office.

The arrival follows previously ill-fated efforts to secure protective equipment from China at the outset of the Covid-19 emergency.

Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister Conor Murphy has faced criticism for claiming a joint order for PPE had been made with the Irish Government in late March.

Days later, Mr Murphy said the deal had fallen through when supply lines were bought over by others.

He said the order was not completed because bigger international players, such as the US and India, had muscled in on the prospective deal with a Chinese supplier.

On Wednesday, Mr Murphy and Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the arrival of the latest PPE supplies secured by the Executive.

They credited the “important contribution” of the NI Bureau and Invest NI in China in developing the supply line.

“There is intense global demand for PPE products so the achievement in securing this order should not be underestimated,” said Mr Swann.

At the same time as opening up a supply line with China, it is important to ramp up local supply of PPEConor Murphy

“However, demand for PPE will remain at very high levels for a considerable period – not just in health and social care but in other sectors too.

“I have made clear that PPE products will only be issued to frontline staff after they are assessed. I am pleased to confirm that the reports on the new consignment are positive in this regard.”

Mr Murphy added: “Establishing a supply line with China, in the face of significant international competition for PPE, is a significant achievement for the Executive.

“This has been made possible by the collaborative efforts of the procurement teams in health and finance along with the bureau in China.

“At the same time as opening up a supply line with China, it is important to ramp up local supply of PPE.

“Many companies have already repurposed their operations and this should be expanded to provide security of supply and create employment as we move towards economic recovery.”

PA