The world’s largest cargo plane has left Belfast flying three 18-tonne oxygen generators and 1,000 ventilators as part of the UK’s latest response to India’s COVID-19 crisis.
Staff at Belfast International Airport worked through the night to load 60 tonnes of life-saving kit, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, aboard the massive Antonov 124 aircraft.
Each of the three oxygen generation units –housed in 40ft freight containers – are able to produce 500 litres of oxygen per minute, enough to treat 50 people at a time on ventilators.
Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann, was at Belfast International Airport to see the generators dispatched, in an operation being funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
He said: “The scenes coming out of India are a vivid reminder of the devastation this virus can cause and it shows no sign of abating. It is our moral duty to help and support where we can. Oxygen supply is under severe stress in India’s health system and the three oxygen generation units that we are sending today are each capable of producing 500 litres of oxygen per minute. I sincerely hope this equipment goes some way to easing the pressure and pain the country is currently experiencing.”
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “The situation in India is heart-breaking and we stand side by side with our friends as they face this immense challenge.
“As we battle this global pandemic together, the vital equipment we are providing, including ventilators and oxygen generators, will help save lives and support India’s healthcare system.
“As one United Kingdom we will continue to do all we can to help the Indian health authorities turn the tide on this dreadful virus.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The UK is sending surplus oxygen generators from Northern Ireland to India. This life-saving equipment will support the country's hospitals as they care for vulnerable Covid patients.
“The UK and India are working together to tackle this pandemic. No-one is safe until we are all safe.”
Notes to editors:
- Following receipt of funding from the Department of Health, a number of oxygen generation component parts were procured by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust on behalf of the Northern Ireland health service last year, as part of the regional response to the COVID pandemic.
- This enabled Belfast Trust along with its engineering contractor partners to design and assemble a number of containerised oxygen generator plants that could be deployed as an emergency backup oxygen supply source for HSC Trust hospitals during the pandemic.
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