CBI Northern Ireland hails ‘business heroes' stepping up to tackle coronavirus

O'Neills in Strabane and Derry repositioned its business to start producing scrubs for the NHS

BUSINESS organisation the CBI in Northern Ireland is urging companies in the region to play a part in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic by joining its nationwide 'business heroes' campaign.

The CBI is coordinating efforts and helping firms to explore what they can do to make a difference.

Firms across the north are continuing to work hard to mitigate the impact on society caused by the pandemic.

A number of businesses and organisations are continuing to help to protect lives and the economy from the effects of the pandemic.

Examples include Axial3D, known for producing patient-specific 3D models for use in critical surgery planning, which is now supplying face shields, parts for rapidly manufactured ventilator systems and swabs for Covid-19 test kits. It has provided over 20,000 visors for health workers.

Bangor business Denroy Plastics is part of a not-for-profit initiative named HeroShield which supplies NHS staff with face shields. Working with Crossen Engineering, it is producing more than 150,000 visors each week.

Irish sportswear company O'Neills, despite furloughing staff, has rapidly transformed its production facilities in Strabane and Derry to deliver scrubs for health services across Ireland.

South Eastern Regional College (SERC) has been coordinating the donation of 19,000 gloves, 2,400 aprons and 1,000 masks, plus other key items, for care homes, hospitals and vulnerable people in the local community. It is also offering free online support to upskill businesses.

The CBI is helping coordinate the efforts of companies stepping forward to provide assistance where possible, from providing computers for pupils to PPE for health and care workers.

The organisation's regional director Angela McGowan said: “I'm incredibly proud of the support business heroes in Northern Ireland are providing to their local communities at this critical time. Here we have just a few examples, but there are many more.

“That's why I'm calling on any businesses able to play a part in the fight against the pandemic to get in touch. The CBI is coordinating these much-needed efforts and helping firms to explore what they can do to make a difference.

“From NHS and social care staff to people carrying out essential work in food manufacture, Post Offices and delivery services, workers are stepping up to the plate to shield society from the worst effects of the crisis, as is Government.

“Businesses recognise the key role they can play as well, and we are working with them to find practical solutions to the challenges caused by the pandemic.”

Kieran Kennedy, managing director at O'Neills, said: “I have been through challenging times for business, including recessions, Brexit and the Troubles, but I have never had to deal with such a fast changing and far reaching challenge.

“I was aware of the demand for PPE as it was highlighted in the media, and when I got a sample set of scrubs, I knew right away that we had the capability to produce them in Strabane.

“I am so proud of our team, the values we live by in O'Neills are loyalty, flexibility, commitment and passion and it's these values that are driving the team through their greatest ever challenge.

“This is an international emergency, we are doing all we can to help and we have been working with a small number of other businesses who are stepping up to assist the healthcare sector by adapting their manufacturing processes to make PPE. The innovation and drive of indigenous SMEs is inspiring, and I will do everything I can to support them.”

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