As the spread of COVID-19 is posing an especially severe challenge to the Middle East, Chinese experts are fighting alongside their Middle Eastern counterparts, and China's sharing of experience and donation of supplies have been boosting confidence and capability for the region in the fight against coronavirus.
by Xinhua writers Wang Jian, Zhang Miao, Chen Lin
CAIRO, March 29 (Xinhua) -- The spread of COVID-19 is now posing an especially severe challenge to the Middle East, where chronic wars, sanctions, famine, financial collapse and political unrest have wrecked the preventive efforts against the ferocious virus.
Tens of thousands of coronavirus cases have been registered in the region so far, with the figure in Iran alone exceeding 35,000. Cases were also reported in Syria and Libya, where wars are still raging and vast multitudes of displaced people are acutely vulnerable to diseases.
At such a critical moment, some Chinese medics are fighting alongside their Middle Eastern counterparts, and China's sharing of experience and donation of supplies have been boosting confidence and capability for the region in the fight against the pandemic.
A plane carrying medical supplies donated by a Chinese company arrives in Algiers, Algeria, on March 27, 2020.(Xinhua)
In Iraq's capital Baghdad, a new PCR (polymerase chain reaction) laboratory is ready to be put into use. The lab, recently established with the help of Chinese experts, is expected to greatly improve the war-torn country's capacity to confirm cases from suspected ones.
"The testing ability in Iraq is far from enough," said Yang Honghui, who arrived in Baghdad on March 7 as part of a seven-member Chinese medical team sent by the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC).
Previously, the Central Public Health Laboratory in Baghdad was the only place for PCR test in Iraq, with a capacity to do 200-400 tests per day, said Yang, with the DAAN Gene Co., Ltd. of Sun Yat-sen University.
A Chinese team of health experts sent to provide assistance to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in Iraq pose for a group photo outside the new PCR laboratory in Baghdad, Iraq, March 25, 2020. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)
The new lab, with the Chinese donation of nucleic acid test kits and other equipment, will be able to conduct some 1,000 tests per day, he added.
"This new laboratory will enhance our capability to deal with this pandemic for the residents of Baghdad who make up to about 20 percent of Iraq's population," said Asaad Mahdi, deputy director general of the Iraqi Ministry of Health.
Besides helping build the test lab, the Chinese medical team also brought medical screening equipment such as mobile X-ray and CT. They trained health workers and shared clinical guidelines and experience in case management as well as infection prevention and control.
Chinese experts conduct video epidemic prevention guidance in Baghdad, Iraq, March 11, 2020.(Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)
Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East, also benefited from the on-spot help of the Chinese experts with the RCSC, who arrived at Tehran on Feb. 29, ten days after Iran reported its first confirmed case.
On Thursday, the Chinese medics returned to China after concluding their mission there.
"During the 27 days in Iran, we fully felt the friendship between the two peoples, and our work was widely appreciated," said team leader Zhou Xiaohang.
A Chinese team of experts with the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) sent to provide assistance to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran returns to Shanghai, east China, March 27, 2020.(Xinhua)
According to Zhou, head of the Disaster Relief and Health Department of the Shanghai Branch of the RCSC, the Chinese experience, including nationwide mobilization, home quarantine, and full screening and testing of suspected cases, and centralized treatment of the patients, has been applied in Iran.
Besides, as early as March 9, officials of the Beijing municipal government has delivered donation to Tehran at the Iranian Embassy in China to support its fight against COVID-19, and handed over a letter from Mayor Chen Jining to his Tehran counterpart Pirouz Hanachi via Iranian Ambassador to China Mohammad Keshavarz-Zadeh.
Chinese medical team members meet with Iranian medical experts in Tehran, Iran, March 7, 2020. (Xinhua)
It was the first batch of epidemic prevention materials donated by Beijing to its international friend.
Elsewhere in the region, China's aid has also been continuously delivered to different countries.
A batch of medical supplies and equipment from China arrived in Tunisia on Saturday; Algeria on Friday received medical supplies donated by a Chinese company; Also on Friday, a Chinese bank announced the donation of medical supplies and cash to Turkey.
FRIENDS IN ADVERSITY
Besides sending medical teams and medical supplies overseas, China has also been dedicated in sharing its experience in fighting COVID-19 with all countries in need.
Abdulaziz Alshaabani, a Saudi journalist and researcher in Chinese affairs, said that China "has achieved a great deal in containing the epidemic at home."
A recovered patient leaves a hotel under quarantine in Beit Jala, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on March 20, 2020.(Photo by Luay Sababa/Xinhua)
China has the technology and knowledge that can contribute to the global fight against this crisis, he said.
Following China's experience, two mobile cabin hospitals were established in Iran to meet the surging demand of COVID-19 treatment, said Wu Huanyu, a member of the expert team and professor with Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
"And more mobile hospitals will be constructed in the future," Wu said.
Chinese medical expert Yang Honghui (back L) instructs an Iraqi medical worker on operating a nucleic acid detection machine at a new Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) lab in Baghdad, Iraq, March 26, 2020. (Xinhua)
Through a video-meeting on Thursday, Chinese medical experts shared their expertise in combating coronavirus with their counterparts from several Middle Eastern countries including Libya, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria.
"We discussed during the meeting the excellent Chinese plan in dealing with the coronavirus and the way to treat the infected people and suspected cases," said Samir Nairat, director of Jenin Government Hospital in the West Bank.
The conference came in time, especially as the virus is spreading widely in the world, Nairat added.
Mustafa al-Qawasmi, director general of emergency of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, said that Palestine has copied China's model after the country reported the first COVID-19 case.
The Turkish branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) announces that it will donate medical supplies and cash to support Turkey in its combat against COVID-19 on March 27, 2020.(Xinhua)
"We followed Chinese people on how they dealt with the condition by separating the provinces from each other, imposing home quarantine on thousands of people, and raising awareness among people to adhere to all preventive measures," al-Qawasmi added.
Walid Ammar, director general of the Public Health Ministry and head of the National Infectious Disease Committee in Lebanon, said that China's measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus has proven effective, and his country is ready to learn from it.
Mazen Qusaibati, head of the internal diseases department at the Ibn Al-Nafees Hospital in Syria, said that the video-conference helped the country "save time" and "avoid mistakes" in dealing with the virus.
(Xinhua writers Xu Xiaoqing, Qiu Yi, Yang Shuxin, Liu Xi, Xiong Sihao, Ji Xiaobo, Luo Xin also contributed to this story)
(Video reporters: Zhang Miao, Chen Lin, Tang Jiefeng; Video editor: Lin Lin)