A plane carrying a team of specialist doctors and medical equipment left China for Italy Wednesday, where the health system is under unprecedentent strain from the spiraling coronavirus outbreak. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying tweeted that the team of medical experts were “ready to share their experience.”
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced the incoming deployment Tuesday night following a phone call with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. He said that China was sending “specialist doctors who faced the first peak of the coronavirus” to help deal with the surge of new patients in Italy, where 10,149 people have tested positive.
“Our doctors don’t need anyone to teach them their job, but the Chinese doctors were the first [to deal with the virus] and they can bring their experience,” he told RAI television.
Italy is the worst-hit country after China. It recorded its deadliest day on Tuesday, with 168 people killed by Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, taking the death toll to 631. More than 10,000 have been infected so far, and Rome has placed the entire country of 60 million people under lockdown. Cases also continue to rise in neighbouring France and Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said up to 70 per cent of Germans – or almost 58 million people – could eventually be infected.
China meanwhile seems to have brought the disease under control, with President Xi Jinping on Tuesday saying victory was in sight during a symbolic visit to the epicenter, Wuhan. The temporary hospitals are not in use any more, but the mandatory quarantine for travellers from countries with high numbers of cases suggests that China is aware that the situation could revert back, and therefore remains highly vigilant.
Lu Xiang, an international relations researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it was “a matter of course” for China to offer help to coronavirus-hit countries.
“We feel we’ve suffered in the same way. We’ve accumulated experience and learned lessons in our fight against the virus,” Lu said. “The situation in Italy is grim. It’s time to share – we can have good communication with them,” he said.
Beijing also announced over the weekend that it would donate US$20 million to the World Health Organisation to help combat the virus.