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Virgin Atlantic Cargo has become the first British airline to resume scheduled services to China, operating three flights a week from Heathrow to Shanghai.

Two of those flights will to be used exclusively by the Department of Health and Social Care, to increase deliveries of PPE for the NHS.

Virgin Atlantic has so far completed five flights from Shanghai for the NHS, with its Boeing 787-9 services having already delivered 80 tonnes of cargo consisting of 3.5 million items of personal protective equipment.

The airline has been given permission to carry cargo on the aircraft’s passenger seats and in overhead lockers as well as the cargo hold to maximise the payload of each flight.

Dominic Kennedy, managing director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, said: “These are unprecedented times and we all want to play a part in supporting the NHS. We are proud to be part of the mission to get crucial medical supplies to the UK as fast as possible, which is the result of a fantastic team effort between the authorities and our colleagues right across the airline.

“It also means we can help our freight forwarder customers to re-establish supply chains to China, which will enable them and their customers to start getting back to business.”