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World shows support for Wuhan and China

By Bo Leung in London and Cai Hong in Beijing | | Updated: 2020-01-30 15:29
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A worker unloads medical materials from a plane at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, Jan 28, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Amid a surge in the number of coronavirus cases — the total surpassed 7,000 on Wednesday — people outside China have shown empathy and support for China in fighting back against the outbreak.

Boeing will donate 250,000 medical-grade respiratory masks to Chinese health officials combating the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and Zhoushan in eastern Zhejiang province, the company said on Wednesday. Boeing has already provided about 25,000 masks to employees working in the region.

"Our thoughts continue to be with all those in China dealing with health impacts related to the coronavirus," Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in a news release announcing the donation. "Through our donation, it is our hope we can help limit the spread of this virus and ease the burden on local aid workers and medical personnel."

The donations have poured in from both deep-pocketed companies and wealthy individuals around the world. In the United States, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Sunday it would commit $10 million to aid first responders in China and Africa, including $5 million for international cooperation, treatment and vaccine development.

The fashion industry is also joining the fight, with heavy-hitters LVMH, headed by French billionaire Bernard Arnault, and luxury firm Kering, founded by French billionaire Francois Pinault, reportedly donating $2.3 million and $1 million respectively. "Our thoughts are with the many impacted by the novel coronavirus outbreak, and therefore we have decided to donate the funds as an immediate contribution to assist," Pinault said in a statement to fashion journal WWD.

Large multinationals in the US and Europe — including Microsoft, Dell, L'Oreal and Cargill — have collectively donated roughly $1.4 million to the Chinese Red Cross and authorities in Hubei province battling the epidemic. Apple CEO Tim Cook took to Twitter to announce that the iPhone maker would also contribute to efforts on the ground.

"As people in China and around the world celebrate Lunar New Year, we send our love and support to the many impacted by the Coronavirus," Cook wrote. "Apple will be donating to groups on the ground helping support all of those affected."

During a news conference on Wednesday, European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said the European Union can deploy emergency medical teams or provide protective equipment to China.

On Tuesday, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated following a request for assistance from France to provide consular support to EU citizens in Wuhan.

Following this, the EU's Emergency Response Coordination Centre will be meeting with member states "in order to ensure all of them have the same information and can make their needs known".

"Should assistance be requested by China, via our Civil Protection Mechanism, we can facilitate either the deployment of our Emergency Medical Teams or provide personal protective equipment stock," Lenarcic said.

"We are monitoring the global situation comprehensively in order to be able to cooperate with China and others in the most optimal way. In fact, our Emergency Response Coordination Centre is in contact with Chinese authorities who are interested in purchasing certain medical equipment," he added.

People from across Japan have begun offering support to residents in Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province, according to Japan's news agency Jiji Press.

Inagora Inc, an e-commerce operator based in Tokyo, launched a campaign on Monday to ship face masks free of charge to residents of the city and in other parts of Hubei province, Jiji Press said.

"I hope people there can spend the Lunar New Year holiday at ease," said Inagora spokesperson Kanako Itano.

According to Itano, paid orders for face masks have skyrocketed since the outbreak of the new coronavirus, increasing up to 300-fold per day. Orders for antibacterial sheets, mouthwash and hand soaps have also risen sharply.

On Monday, the city of Oita in Oita prefecture sent 30,000 masks it had been keeping for disaster relief purposes in boxes with a message reading "Wuhan Jiayou!" which means "Hang in there, Wuhan!" in Chinese. Oita and Wuhan have been sister cities for over 40 years.

The masks will be sent to Wuhan via the Red Cross network because the current situation prevents the city from directly receiving donated goods from across the globe, according to the Oita Municipal Government's Cultural and International Affairs Division.

"The people of Wuhan are like family," said Soichiro Hayashi, head of the division's International Affairs Office. "I hope people can return to their ordinary lives as quickly as possible."

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government donated 20,000 protective suits for medical staff working in Hubei to treat patients with pneumonia caused by the coronavirus. The suits were loaded on a plane that the national government chartered to repatriate Japanese citizens stuck in Wuhan.

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