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Central America gets Chinese aid

By SERGIO HELD in Cajica, Colombia | For China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-02 09:29

9 Caribbean countries receive medical help for containing spread of COVID-19


Medical help from the government and nongovernment sources of China and solidarity with locals to fight COVID-19 has been visible throughout Central America and the Caribbean recently.

Nine Caribbean countries, with which China has diplomatic relations, have so far seen Chinese aid being deployed quickly to help contain the disease.

"The first country that announced (that it) was going to cooperate with the Dominican Republic to cope with COVID-19, was the People's Republic of China," said Rosa Ng, former representative of the Dominican Republic in China.

According to Zhang Run, China's ambassador to the Dominican Republic, more donations by the Chinese government are expected in the near future after the initial consignment of materials worth 700,000 yuan ($98,140).

"At the beginning of this epidemic, the Dominican government expressed its solidarity and support for China. Dominican society views this health situation objectively and rationally and respects the Chinese community that lives in this country," Zhang wrote in an op-ed published by local media in the capital of Santo Domingo. The two countries celebrated the second anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations on May 1.

The Chinese and Dominican Republic governments have been working together during the pandemic, with China actively sharing its experience and success in curbing the spread of the virus. The city of Santiago received a donation directly from the Chinese government in mid-May.

Santiago resident Migui Perez said that this "is important because the cities need the support of countries with more economic resources than ours, and in the case of Santiago, donations are needed, as the mayoralty works untiringly without having the needed resources".

He stressed that even the smallest donation under present circumstances is of great help. "China has good relations with the country and has shown that with the mayor of Santiago, Abel Martinez, that aid is a great contribution."

Moreover, the private sector and the local Chinese community in the Dominican Republic have deployed assistance throughout the country. This includes some 1,000 COVID-19 test kits from the Hefei Institute for Public Safety Research of Tsinghua University, some 50,000 masks and 15,000 test kits, as well as four ventilators from the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation.

MicroPort Scientific Corp, a company from Shanghai with operations in the Dominican Republic, donated 50,000 masks to the Dominican National Health Service. Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies donated an artificial intelligence solution to speed up COVID-19 diagnosis.

Health experts from Hunan province met via teleconferencing with those from the Dominican Republic in a meeting facilitated by the Chinese embassy.

Ricardo Ng, vice-president of an association of a Chinese community numbering 30,000 to 40,000 members, said, "We are ready to collaborate, to help the Dominican people."

"We are Chinese, we have a Chinese face, but we have a Dominican heart, we love this country like any Dominican," he said.

Chinese business owners from Chinatown in Santo Domingo have played a key role in coordinating the collection and deployment of community aid. Despite their businesses being closed, many have been able to help.

"Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, the community has done what is its usual modus operandi: To collect money from all the members of the community and roll out the aid," said Leibi Ng, executive director of Flowers for All, an organization that promotes and cares for Santo Domingo's Chinatown.

The community's cash donations were used to buy masks and gloves for hospitals in the area. Staples have also been distributed through Catholic and evangelical churches.

"The anguish of the aid is that, no matter how much you give, it will never be enough to cover everything that is needed. You do what you can," she said.

Rosa Ng highlighted the relevance of the Dominican Republic's "extended and united" Chinese community in overcoming the pandemic's challenges. "We always react to any catastrophe," she said.

In Costa Rica, the Chinese government has sent in a shipment with 50 tons of equipment, including 726,000 pieces of personal protective equipment for health workers. Rodrigo Delgado, Costa Rica's ambassador to Beijing, highlighted the importance of cooperation between the two countries.

Panama has also benefited from joint efforts of the Chinese private and public sectors, and from the Chinese community on the ground, to mobilize food staples and technology to speed up diagnosis of COVID-19 patients.

In El Salvador, China donated 100,000 masks, 10,080 test kits and five ventilators during the early stages of the outbreak. And Haiti received a donation of personal protective equipment, up to 500 hospital beds, 100 ventilators and surgery tables.

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