The Health Service Executive paid special thanks to the Defence Forces for its support during Covid-19 at a ceremony in Cork today.

Frontline staff and members of the emergency services deployed their blue emergency lights and sirens as LÉ Eithne towed by the Port of Cork's tugboat, Gerry O'Sullivan, departed Albert Quay for its Haulbowline Naval base after 90 days of active service.

The vessel was the last of the six naval vessels deployed under the Defence Forces' Operation Fortitude to fight Covid-19 to be stood down.

The ship's Commander Caoimhín Mac Unfraidh said he and his crew were very proud to be called upon to serve their country.

LÉ Eithne, which is 36 years old, was pulled out of operational reserve and put on active duty at Albert Quay in under 36 hours.

Since 20 March, the crew has been carrying out Personal Protection Equipment distribution to frontline staff in the South/South West Hospital Group region and personal protective equipment (PPE) training for port staff in Cork and Waterford.

Some 5,069 Covid-19 tests were carried out by Naval personnel on board vessels docked over the past nine weeks in Dublin and Galway.

Crews were supplemented by volunteers from the country's Naval Reserve.

Dr Orla Healy, Chief Operations Officer and Covid-19 lead for HSE South/South West Hospital Group, said they were extremely grateful to their colleagues in the Defence Forces for the tremendous support they gave to the HSE in managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It was a unique opportunity to galvanise all of those supports and in particular they provided tremendous assistance in general logistics, in specific swabbing services, in transport and in the provision and construction of tents outside our hospitals."