The first plane of critical medical supplies from the world’s largest producer, China, is to depart from Shanghai today (Australian Western Standard Time). Minderoo Foundation has arranged the charter of the Airbus A330, operated by China Eastern, that will touch down in Perth after a 10-hour flight.
Aiming to resolve Australia’s extreme shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment), two more flights are due to arrive on Friday and Saturday this week, together bringing more than 600 cubic meters weighing over 90 tonnes of medical supplies. This will include over 1 million N95 equivalent face masks, 400,000 surgical masks, 2.3 million medical-grade gloves, 100,000 nasal swabs, 200,000 medical coveralls, 10,000 medical goggles, 5,000 touch-less thermometers and over 33 ICU grade ventilators.
Minderoo Foundation Chairman Dr Andrew Forrest AO said FMG’s deep and enduring relationships with China are unparalleled in Australia. This allowed Minderoo Foundation to supercharge procurement efforts, on behalf of and in collaboration with the Western Australian and Federal Governments.
“Unprecedented times cannot be met with a precedented response,” Dr Forrest said. “The trusted relationships, procurement expertise and logistics knowledge of the FMG and Minderoo Foundation teams, have been fundamental in rapidly securing this vital equipment.
“Our nation is facing a threat not seen in our lifetimes.
“China’s Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Ambassador Cheng, and the Chinese people have been great mates to Australia. They are now doing all they can to help us in our hour of need. I thank the People’s Republic of China for protecting our critical medical orders in the face of intense pressure from other nations. Without this, there would be no plane loads of equipment that we celebrate today for our first responders and suffering Australians.”
Minderoo Foundation Co-chair Nicola Forrest AO said the equitable distribution of the supplies would be coordinated with WA Health across key stakeholders in primary and aged care, private and public hospital systems and other front-line services based on the areas of greatest need.
“We are working with the WA Government, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), WA’s private hospitals, National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, National Incident Room and Aspen Medical to determine how we can best meet projected surges in demand for critical supplies,” she said.
Dr Forrest said: “Our task has been to take the uncertainty and panic about the lack of sufficient medical equipment and COVID-19 testing out of the system. In collaboration with the Western Australian and Federal Governments, and the National COVID Coordination Commission, we will not stop until we achieve that. And we will never ever give up until we can look back on, and not be living through, this COVID-19 threat.”
WA Health Minister Roger Cook thanked Minderoo Foundation and FMG for their “extraordinary support” in finding these “incredibly difficult to obtain supplies” for WA’s broader health system, other stakeholders and frontline staff. Mr Cook confirmed that “rigorous quality control measures have been established to ensure all supplies meet required Australian safety and clinical standards.”
“To allow this generous commitment to continue to scale, the WA Government will reimburse Minderoo Foundation at cost for the supplies purchased so that Minderoo Foundation can further leverage its incredible commitment of up to $160 million over the coming weeks and continue to source these critical medical supplies for Australia,” Mr Cook said.
Minderoo Foundation’s urgent response to the pandemic also involves rapidly scaling WA’s capacity to undertake broad scale testing of the community. A detailed plan to scale the number of accurate RNA-based diagnostic COVID-19 tests being undertaken in Western Australia from 400 per day up to 10,000 has been prepared and will be implemented shortly. Minderoo Foundation is working with BGI Genomics, Clinipath Pathology, the Harry Perkins Institute, the AMA and WA Health in this effort.
Dr Forrest said: “Those countries that have radically scaled testing have contained the virus and avoided untold human and economic hardship. Those who didn’t, have suffered badly. To fight this virus we too must quickly identify infected individuals in the community, trace their contacts and ensure isolation and containment. I am very grateful to our partners for their immense effort in making this happen with us.”
The Minderoo Foundation COVID-19 Response is being led by senior executive Dr Steve Burnell, supported by the entire Minderoo Foundation and FMG teams, in particular the dedicated FMG team in China.
In a message to all Australians, Dr Forrest stressed the importance of following the latest guidance on social distancing and staying at home.
“Our decisions, I trust like yours, are being driven by love, family, community, care and compassion, and never fear.” he said. “We all must protect our vulnerable just as we all protect our families. We are in this together, and it is together that we will defeat this virus.”