International Cooperation to Help Countries Cope
Assistance to Italy and Other EU Countries
On March 12, a group of nine Chinese aid professionals arrived in Rome with tons of medical supplies, including 700 ventilators, monitors and defibrillators, as part of China’s efforts to help Italy contain the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“This evening I wanted to show you the first aid arrived from China,” Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio said during an emotional speech in a Facebook live broadcast, shortly after the Chinese team’s landing. He pointed to his laptop which showed a group of Chinese nationals coming off the plane.
“These are the specialized medical staff who faced the coronavirus emergency in China, and at this moment have arrived in Rome,” Di Maio said. “This is what we call solidarity.”
The expert team was organized by China’s National Health Commission and the Red Cross Society. The group is the third sent abroad by China following previous ones to Iran and Iraq.
Also that week, medical protection supplies donated by Fosun Foundation of the Shanghai-based Fosun Group, Longfor Group and Beijing Taikang Yicai Foundation, including 5,500 protective suits and 40,000 N95 respirator masks, arrived in Milan, Italy.
On March 17, a cargo plane loaded with donated supplies departed from Hangzhou in eastern China and arrived at Liege Airport in Belgium. The goods were handed over to the French health ministry, said the Alibaba Foundation and the Jack Ma Foundation in a press release. On board the plane were also medical goods donated to other European countries, including Belgium and Slovenia.
Also on March 17, another batch of medical supplies sent by China arrived in Paris, including protective masks, surgical masks, protective suits and medical gloves, according to China’s Ambassador to France Lu Shaye.
“At the crucial moment when China waged war against the epidemic, France provided us with precious support and assistance,” said Lu. “Now as France and the whole of Europe are facing the serious challenge of the pandemic, China is ready to provide aid as far as possible.”
“This is a gesture that must be appreciated,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. “We showed our solidarity with China by delivering protective equipment, especially to Wuhan. The Chinese, who are gradually starting to emerge from these difficulties, have returned this solidarity,” Le Drian said.
“We’re grateful for China’s support,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted on March 17. “We need each other’s support in times of need.”
Team Sent to Iraq
A seven-member Chinese medical team is in Iraq and is going all out to help that country fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Their activities include advising the government to take stricter prevention measures, sharing China’s treatment experience with their Iraqi counterparts and promoting pandemic control know-how among residents.
Iraq is in urgent need of nucleic acid test kits, team members told the Global Times. The dearth of test kits may have been the reason for fewer confirmed cases in the country, and therefore the Chinese experts are assisting Iraq in building a polymerase chain reaction laboratory in Baghdad and donated 50,000 nucleic acid test kits to improve Iraq’s diagnostic capability.
The Chinese volunteer medical team was dispatched by the Red Cross Society of China at the request of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, and arrived in Baghdad on March 9.
Beijing Municipality Sends 30 Tons of Aid to Iran
Beijing Municipality has sent 30 tons of medical and health care items to Iran in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Islamic Republic News Agency reported on March 18.
The donation has been delivered to the capital city of Tehran by 11 trucks. Thanking China for the measure, Tehran Mayor Pirouz Hanachi called for mutual cooperation in various areas.
Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said on March 18 that there are 17,361 people in Iran infected with COVID-19 of which 1,135 have died.
Serbia Seeks Aid from China Due to Lack of EU Solidarity
Chinese Ambassador to Serbia, Chen Bo, informed Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on March 17 that Beijing had approved a donation and decided to send experts to help Serbia fight the coronavirus pandemic.
President Vučić said Serbia was not yet in the same crisis as European Union (EU) countries when it comes to the coronavirus but that it would soon happen. “Serbia now turns its eyes to China,” he added.
“To avoid that worst-case scenario, we need your help and support. That is why I am asking that you send us anything you can. Money is not a problem, we need everything, from masks, gloves to ventilators, literally everything, and most of all we need your knowledge and people who would be willing to come here and help,” Vučić said.
“All my personal hopes are focused on and directed toward China and its president,” he said, emphasizing that Serbia was not asking for money.
“We are waiting for our Chinese brothers here. Without you, it turns out that Europe is having difficulty defending itself, we do not hide the fact that we cannot [defend ourselves]. Without China and our Chinese brothers, we are incapable of doing so,” Vučić said.
The Chinese ambassador said that “ordinary citizens” in China had reacted very positively to Vučić’s call for help, and that more than 300 million people had watched a video recording of his statement.
The first batch of Chinese aid in the struggle against the novel virus has already arrived in Serbia, and comprises COVID-19 test kits donated by the Mammoth Foundation, a humanitarian organization based in Shenzhen.
The aid operation was coordinated by the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, in collaboration with the Serbian government. The number of test kits delivered was not specified.
The requested aid from China became all the more urgent since the European Commission decided to limit exports of medical equipment outside of the EU.
Vučić further said that he had guaranteed Serbia’s “strong as steel friendship” to the Chinese president.
“European solidarity does not exist. That was a fairy tale on paper. I have sent a special letter to the only ones who can help, and that is China…,” Vučić said on March 15, the day when Serbia declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus. He said at the time that governments in Western Europe had pressed Serbia to change its tender procedures to reduce imports of Chinese goods and import from Europe instead. But now the same governments do not want to help Serbia, even in exchange for money, he said.
The EU later issued a statement saying there was no ban in the EU on the export of medical equipment, masks and ventilators. Rather, the EU adopted a regime of permits for the sale of medical equipment to non-EU states which may submit a request to continue deliveries to the Balkan and other countries outside the union.
On March 17, European Commission Spokesperson Ana Pisonero said the EU was looking at ways to connect the Western Balkans with the initiatives taken by the EU in curbing the coronavirus pandemic.
“Close coordination and cooperation at the regional level and with the EU are key factors in the response to this emergency situation. In these difficult times, solidarity is needed. This is not the time for a polemic or unfounded accusations,” said Pisonero.
She added that the EU was looking at how to best provide support in mitigating the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, including the possibility of redirecting EU pre-accession (IPA) funds and flexibility regarding state aid rules.
The Serbian Minister of European Integration, Jadranka Joksimović, has already sent a letter to the Commission asking the EU to enable the repurposing of unspent IPA funds, to fight the coronavirus epidemic.
“We need to understand that we are pretty alone in all of this,” Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Lončar commented.
The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats of the European Parliament also issued a statement calling on EU authorities not to ignore the western Balkan region in the fight against the coronavirus.
“[We must] include the Western Balkan countries in our common European response, and in measures to prevent and combat the effects of the epidemic,” Socialists and Democrats Vice-President Kati Piri said.
In an interview with Prva TV on March 17, Minister Lončar said that Serbia had a system in place for 2,000 patients, while preparations are under way to accept 5,000 more in hospitals nationwide. According to official data, there are currently 65 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Serbia, out of a population of 6.96 million.
(Euractive.rs, IRNA, Xinhua. Photos: Xinhua, Telesur )