Covid-19 Mar 23

China sends millions of face masks to Czech Republic

Over 100 tonnes of medical material such as respirators airlifted and more flights planned

by AFP
China sends millions of face masks to Czech Republic
Soldiers unload a plane delivering over 100 tonnes of medical and protective gear from China to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at Pardubice Airport on March 22, 2020 in the Czech Republic. Photo: Josef Vostarek / AFP

PRAGUE: A giant cargo plane carrying over 100 tonnes of medical material from China, including million of face masks, has landed at a Czech airport, the defence ministry said on Sunday.

The Czech Republic, which by Sunday had 1,047 confirmed coronavirus cases including six cured patients and no deaths, has been grappling with a shortage of face masks and disinfectants.

The shortage has led thousands of Czechs to make face masks at home as the state banned people from leaving home without their nose and mouth covered.

The An-124 Ruslan plane, which also carried respirators from Shenzhen landed before midnight on Saturday in the central city of Pardubice as part of NATO's Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) programme.

"We are planning another two (Ruslan) flights this month," Czech Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar said in a statement, adding they could take place on Tuesday and then at the end of March.

Czech media said the plane carried five million face masks, two million respirators and other medical material weighing 106 tonnes in total, while a China Eastern plane that landed in Prague an hour later carried seven million face masks.

Another China Eastern plane with more than a million face masks already landed in Prague on Friday.

Schools, pubs, theatres, cinemas and other facilities are closed across the Czech Republic, an EU member of 10.7 million people.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said on Friday he expected three planes with medical material to arrive from China every week for at least the next six weeks.

AFP