Forrest's Minderoo commits up to $160M for COVID-19 fight

ANDREW and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation has committed up to A$160 million and joined forces with Fortescue Metals Group to procure and distribute lifesaving medical supplies and equipment, and to ramp up accurate RNA-based COVID-19 testing by at least 20 times.
Forrest's Minderoo commits up to $160M for COVID-19 fight Forrest's Minderoo commits up to $160M for COVID-19 fight Forrest's Minderoo commits up to $160M for COVID-19 fight Forrest's Minderoo commits up to $160M for COVID-19 fight Forrest's Minderoo commits up to $160M for COVID-19 fight

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Minderoo has arranged for a China Eastern Airlines A330 charter flight to depart Shanghai today, bound for Perth carrying critical medical supplies.

Another two flights are scheduled for Friday and Saturday to bring more than 90 tonnes of medical supplies, including more than one 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, 5000 touch-less thermometers and over 33 ICU grade ventilators.

Minderoo is working on behalf of, and in collaboration with, the Western Australian and Australian governments.

Andrew Forrest said Australia was facing a threat not seen in our lifetimes.

"Unprecedented times cannot be met with a precedented response," he 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."

Forrest thanked the Chinese people for protecting Australia's medical orders in the face of intense pressure from other countries.

"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," he said.

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."

Last week former FMG boss Nev Power was appointed to chair the National COVID Coordination Commission.

Nicola Forrest said 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.

WA health minister Roger Cook thanked Minderoo and FMG for their "extraordinary support" in sourcing critical supplies.

"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," he said.

Minderoo has also prepared a detailed plan to scale the number of accurate RNA-based diagnostic COVID-19 tests being undertaken in WA from 400 per day up to 10,000 has been prepared and will be implemented shortly, in conjunction with BGI Genomics, Clinipath Pathology, the Harry Perkins Institute, the AMA and WA Health.

"Those countries that have radically scaled testing have contained the virus and avoided untold human and economic hardship," Andrew Forrest said.

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 FMG team in China.

Today, FMG separately announced a $1 million donation to the Royal Flying Doctor Service WA to support the Response Ready for WA appeal. 

"We have seen the devastating impact that this unprecedented global health and economic crisis is having on people across the globe," CEO Elizabeth Gaines said.

"As a business operating in regional WA, we want to ensure our local communities continue to have access to critical services."

Gaines said FMG would continue to work closely with community groups, native title holders and government agencies to determine the needs of communities in the Pilbara during the outbreak.