Irish expatriates living in China have raised €20,000 to send much-needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Ireland.
Fíona Sheahan, who works as a primary school teacher in Shanghai, said she thought they would be able to raise a few thousand euro, so were bowled over by the response.
Fíona is head of Le Chéile in Shanghai, an Irish community group for expats that organises Irish cultural events in the city. Their main event is St Patrick’s Day, which was cancelled this year due to coronavirus restrictions.
Last week, Fíona posted a notice on WeChat, which she described as the Chinese equivalent of Facebook, calling for donations for PPE for Ireland.
She said it was amazing to see the donations pour in over just four days.
Fíona had been in touch with the Irish Embassy prior to the fundraising drive to see if they could help source PPE in China and send it home.
One order has already been filled and gone out, with 5,000 surgical masks winging their way to Inner City Helping Homeless, a charity based in Dublin.
CEO of ICCH Anthony Flynn says they’ve been struggling to get masks and have had to spend considerable resources on getting them.
Asked about recent concerns over the quality of some equipment coming from China, Fíona said the suppliers the Embassy works with are very well-established, and all the PPE is CE-approved.
“The aim was, quality was our main thing, it’s obviously not to be taken lightly.”
Fíona said she was approached by some people who had contacts in factories, but they opted to only work with suppliers that had established links to the Embassy.
Asked about the situation in China now, Fíona said the picture in Shanghai had really changed in the last seven to 10 days.
While there are still temperature checks everywhere, rules on entry to various residential compounds have relaxed.
She says while they have reopened, bars and restaurants are empty, and everyone is still wearing masks.
But Fíona says that there is a sense that China is over the worst of it, and people are feeling cautiously optimistic that crisis has passed.
While the number of cases in Shanghai were relatively low, everyone paid attention to government advice and the streets were completely empty during the restrictions.
Some schools have reopened in the far west of China, but they have yet to open in Shanghai.
Inner City Helping Homeless looks forward to receiving its consignment from china next week.
Asked who the masks were for, CEO Anthony Flynn said that many of ICCHs clients have asked for masks, in particular senior citizens.
Their volunteers also use them while dropping off food parcels to people who need them.
Anthony said that workers in hostels need masks too, as there are huge concerns for the 4,000 people living in homeless hostels around the country.
He said there are 95 homeless people living rough in the capital at the moment and he’d like to see them all being given masks.
“We’ve had a serious problem in terms of isolation in hostels, that’s no fault of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, they’re trying to get extra space, but that’s not happening quickly enough.”
The Independent Councillor for Dublin Central also said that nine people in homeless services had tested positive for Covid-19.
“We’re trying to ensure that everyone that needs access to service [gets it] …and we’re trying to ensure that …people in these facilities have access to ‘own room own door’ facilities, and we need to cocoon these people.”