Chinese company sends aid package to British Steel in Scunthorpe

The Chinese company that bought British Steel is sending a private jet laden with medical equipment to the company’s Scunthorpe steelworks to help protect workers and keep its blast furnaces running amid the chaos caused by Covid-19.

Half of the aid package from China will be donated to the community surrounding the steelworks, as nearby local authorities and Lincolnshire hospitals get to grips with the outbreak.

Aviation data shows that a Bombardier private jet owned by Jingye, which sealed a rescue deal for British Steel earlier this month, is due to arrive at Doncaster Sheffield airport on Tuesday evening.

Asked about the plane’s purpose, a source close to Jingye told the Guardian that the aircraft will be bringing medical and protective equipment from China, destined for workers at the Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, blast furnace steelworks.

Blast furnaces have to be kept running 24 hours a day and cannot simply be switched on and off if disruption caused by the pandemic forces workers off the site.

The source said the plane would deliver equipment including face masks and goggles, forehead temperature check guns, thermometers and medical gloves.

About half will be used to protect workers on the plant, while the other half is being donated to the local hospital in Scunthorpe.

Jingye is based in Xibaipo, Hebei province, about 500 miles north of Wuhan, Hubei province, the city seen as the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was founded 30 years ago by Li Ganpo, a former Communist party official who built the group from scratch in a corner of the province famed for the role it played in the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

The company emerged as the frontrunner last year after a plan to sell the company to a subsidiary of the Turkish military pension fund fell through.

It finally completed a £70m deal this month nearly 10 months after the company collapsed into liquidation following unsuccessful negotiations with the government over a bailout. It promise to invest £1.2bn to open a “new chapter” in the UK steel industry.

Until Jingye bought the company, British Steel’s operations had been funded by an indemnity from the Treasury, thought to be costing the public purse around £1m a day.

The Guardian has approached Jingye and the local MP Holly Mumby-Croft for comment.

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