Chinese technology company Huawei has said it will send a shipment of medical equipment to Ireland as part of its Covid-19 relief efforts.
Ireland will be the first European country after Italy to be sent medical equipment by the company, which has been at the centre of a geopolitical controversy in recent months over the alleged presence of spyware in its products – which the company denies.
The US government has sought to curtail companies’ use of Huawei technology. However, the Trump administration has delayed until May plans to put Huawei on a blacklist of firms it will not trade with.
The company confirmed in a statement that it intends to send personal protective equipment and technological equipment to Ireland.
"Covid-19 knows no borders, it knows no nationality, and we are all in this together. We have been in Ireland for over 15 years and we will do everything we can to help, as we are doing in the other European countries we operate in," said David Kenny, deputy general manager of Huawei Ireland.
“Huawei will donate personal protective equipment to help those working on the frontline, and ICT solutions which could help with video conferencing, or any other useful applications for those who need it,” he said.
Huawei was encouraged to send the equipment by Web Summit chief executive Paddy Cosgrave, it is understood, who tweeted on Thursday that an unnamed Chinese company was seeking an address and a "point person to ship medical aid from China to Ireland as a gift".
Mr Cosgrave has been a vocal critic of aspects of the State’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is understood that a nurse in an Irish hospital agreed to receive the goods; however, the exact manner in which they will be delivered into the Irish healthcare system is not known.
A Huawei spokesman said the equipment is currently being requisitioned in China, and that the company has been in touch with the HSE. The spokesman said the exact destination of the equipment would be determined when it arrived.
The precise method of shipping the equipment, and the quantity coming, is still to be finally determined, but the company said it would be a “large number” of items.
Mr Kenny said: “We have teams in China and Dublin working on this. We’re looking at the quickest way of getting everything here once we have it requisitioned. It might be a combination [of air and sea freight]; for example, PPE [personal protective equipment] might come via air. We’ll use our global supply chain to get it here as soon as we can.”
Mr Cosgrave is understood to be in contact with several other Chinese companies over similar donations.
Adam Segal, a director of the US Council for Foreign Relations and a China expert, said the Huawei effort should be seen as part of a wider context.
“They’re taking the lead from the Chinese government, which wants to shift the story from the virus originating in China to China playing a role in supporting global health and leading on this stage.
"They're following that, and from a corporate perspective, given the widespread campaign by the US to portray them as an untrustworthy and as a malicious actor tied to the Communist Party. This helps them signal they are a responsible corporate actor."