Fortescue, Minderoo Foundation to fight coronavirus

Minderoo Foundation chairman Andrew Forrest and senior executive Steve Burnell announce the $160 million COVID-19 commitment. Source: Minderoo Foundation. Photo Credit: Benjamin Horgan

Andrew Forrest has organised 90 tonnes of medical supplies to be flown from China as part of a $160 million funding package unveiled by Minderoo Foundation.

Fortescue Metals Group, which Forrest chairs, also joined the relief mission to help procure and distribute critical medical supplies and equipment in Australia.

The first of three special charter flights arrived on Wednesday April 1, with the others to land in the same week.

The planes will bring millions of masks, gloves, gowns and other equipment such as nasal swabs, thermometers and ventilators.

Forrest plans to outlay $160 million but if the protective equipment is found to be fit for purpose, it will be sold at cost to state and federal governments.

Forrest, who has deep business ties in China, said more deliveries would follow in coming weeks “until we can take the panic and the stress out of the medical industries”.

Western Australia’s health department promised to purchase any protective equipment found to be fit for purpose.

“The Western Australian Government will reimburse Minderoo Foundation at cost for the supplies purchased so that (it) 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,” Western Australia’s Health Minister Roger Cook said.

Minderoo is also working with Chinese genomics company BGI Group to dramatically increase Western Australia’s coronavirus testing capacity.

It is hoped the plan would allow authorities to test up to 10,000 people per day. The current average is 400 tests per day.

Fortescue also donated $1 million to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Western Operations to help boost the organisation’s frontline services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The donation will ensure the RFDS has the necessary resources, infrastructure, capital and people to safely deliver its 24/7 emergency aeromedical and essential primary health care services for remote and regional West Australians.

Organisations or projects in the Pilbara that have been impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19 are encouraged to apply for the Fortescue Community Grants program, which has been extended to receive applications until April 17.