With nearly 6,000 cases of people infected with Covid-19, Portugal is, like many other countries in Europe and all over the world, scrambling to bolster its hospitals with critical medical supplies. Ventilators, which save lives by helping infected patients to breathe, have become especially difficult to obtain. Last week, an order of 500 Chinese ventilators from Portugal was threatened by an offer from another country but was saved “in extremis” by BNU bank in Macau.
According to a source at BNU, after the Government of Portugal was informed by the Chinese supplier, on Sunday, March 22nd, that if the previously agreed payment of 10 million USD was not made in full by 10 am Beijing time on the next day, the order of 500 ventilators would be cancelled, and the equipment sold elsewhere.
With banks closed in Portugal until Monday morning, already after the deadline set by the supplier, it was virtually impossible to prevent the cancellation of this order. Various solutions were considered between the Government, the State credit agency (IGCP) and the State-owned Bank Caixa Geral de Depositos (CGD). The decision was then made to advance payment through CGD´s bank in Macao, Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU).
That same afternoon in Portugal, already after 1 am in Macau, CGD president Paulo Macedo called Carlos Cid Álvares, BNU CEO, to ask for the bank´s assistance with the advance payment by the State-owned bank, which was immediately agreed. The payment coordinates were sent directly to Cid Álvares. The operation was being closely followed at the highest level in Portugal – the Government, CGD´s top management, and IGCP, which manages State financing.
At 8:30 the next day, as banking operations resumed in BNU´s operations floor in Macau, 90 minutes before the deadline set by the Chinese manufacturer, a team was already in place to immediately ensure payment.
According to BNU sources, confirmation swifts of the transfer were quickly issued and ready about 60 minutes before the deadline. “It was a joint (IGCP, CGD and BNU) effort and we had to cut through bureaucracy to make this happen”, a source a the Macau bank adds. IGCP later funded the operation.
Newspaper Publico, that initially reported the story in Portugal, adds that these confirmation codes were sent to Portuguese embassy in Beijing, that ensured the manufacturer received them ahead of the deadline.
The 500 ventilators are now being shipped to Portugal, to hospitals which are in dire need of them, as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise in the country, and is expected to peak in the next 30 days.