Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Hong Kong in late January, PPE (personal protection equipment) has become widely recognised as a life-saving preventative tool in the fight against the virus.
Healthcare workers rely on PPE – surgical masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, eye protection and caps – to reduce the risk of infection while carrying out clinical procedures on the frontline. As the outbreak spread, Hong Kong hospitals saw their PPE stocks rapidly depleting – a situation made even more critical due to strains and disruptions in the global supply chain.
Dr Deacons Yeung, Director (Cluster Services) for the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, explained: ‘The global situation in the production, supply chain and transportation of PPE became extremely tight in the early stage of the COVID-19 epidemic, and that was coupled with the supply shortage of the raw materials necessary for additional PPE production.’
Cathay Pacific Cargo supported the Hospital Authority by providing quick and flexible service to bring additional PPE into Hong Kong. The Hospital Authority placed direct orders for supplies around the world, but shipments faced uncertain delivery schedules.
‘With Cathay Pacific, air shipments of PPE could be arranged in just a few days – this fast delivery was very important in our fight against COVID-19,’ said Yeung.
James Conlin, Head of Cargo Global Partnerships at Cathay Pacific, said: ‘With the determination and professionalism of our operational teams, we were able to support the Hong Kong Hospital Authority in equipping its staff with the vital medical supplies it needed for frontline workers within a matter of days. In all, we delivered around 2,900 cubic metres of PPE and medical supplies to the city’s hospitals.’
Since then, Cathay Pacific has been at the forefront in delivering PPE to customers and governments across the globe, using its 20-strong Boeing 747 fleet and the bellyholds and cabins of its passenger fleet on thousands of cargo-only flights.
Cathay Pacific also helped speed up deliveries of essential supplies to Hong Kong residents as shortages of facemasks and hand sanitiser in local stores led shoppers to start placing e-commerce orders from overseas. In February, that surge in online purchases resulted in a huge influx of packages arriving at Hong Kong International Airport.
The team at Cathay Pacific Services Ltd (CPSL), which operates the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal, dedicated an area of floorspace and 30 staff to create a temporary mail-handling centre to deal with the volume of incoming packages. This provided Hongkong Post, a vital partner in Cathay Pacific’s cargo and cross-border air-cargo market, additional support to its own facility at the airport.
Over its four weeks of operation, it processed more than 90,000 shipments that arrived on 232 large cargo pallets and in 932 cargo bins. This helped ensure the prompt delivery of goods that enabled Hong Kong people to protect both themselves and the wider community from the effects of the virus.
Conlin said: ‘It was heartening for our team to play a part in the delivery of these essential goods to the people of Hong Kong.’