United we stand against coronavirus

Ahmed Morsy , Wednesday 22 Apr 2020

Al-Ahram Weekly reports on the cooperation between Egypt and China in fighting the COVID-19

United we stand
Liqiang, right, and Shawki receiving the Chinese shipment of medical protective supplies in Cairo on 16 April

During the last few months Egypt and China have exchanged shipments of preventive medical equipment to combat the coronavirus.

Concerning the latest batch, on 16 April, Egypt’s Health Ministry announced that the state had received four tons of medical protective supplies from China to help the country combat the spread of the virus.

The shipment included 20,000 N95 respiratory masks, 10,000 protective gowns and 10,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing kits, according to a statement by the ministry.

Chinese Ambassador to Cairo Liao Liqiang and Egypt’s Health Ministry Under-Secretary Mohamed Shawki were at the airport to receive the shipment. Shawki noted that it was the first time that so many Chinese shipments had been donated to Egypt.

Liao stressed that China “will spare no information or technical assistance to help Egypt contain this pandemic”.

The day following the shipment, Health Minister Hala Zayed thanked the Chinese government and people for the gift, and praised the precautionary measures taken by Beijing to curb the spread of the virus.

Two days later, in the embassy’s seventh online press conference, Liao stated that the Chinese shipment received in mid-April was to be followed by two more, one scheduled to arrive on 21 April and includes 10,000 N95 masks, 10,000 medical protective suits, and a number of medical testing kits.

The third batch will bring 150,000 masks, a million masks for medical staff, 70,000 medical protective suits, 70,000 Covid-19 test kits, and 1,000 thermometer guns.

Earlier in April, Liao inaugurated a new factory, a joint Egyptian-Chinese investment, for manufacturing medical facemasks in the free industrial zone in Cairo’s Nasr City district. The plant, the first outside investment for China amid the Covid-19 outbreak, represents “a model of profound relations between Egypt and China”, Liao said.

During the online press conference, he said the factory, which currently has one production line, will be expanded after the number of production lines are increased to five, and that the output of each will be 100,000 masks daily. Thus, when fully operational, it will produce half a million masks daily.

In February and March, Egypt sent China two shipments of protective aid.

Under the directives of Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Zayed paid a six-day visit to China on 1 March to show solidarity with the Chinese people against the novel coronavirus outbreak. During her visit, she delivered Egypt’s second batch of protective medical supplies to China. Zayed brought back 1,000 thermal detectors from China along with the updated version of technical documents illustrating the precautionary measures taken against the epidemic.

Coinciding with her visit, on 1 March Egypt lit up three famous historic sites in the country — the Salaheddin Citadel in Cairo, the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor and the entrance of the Philae Temple Complex in Aswan — in red and gold stars synchronised to resemble the national flag of China as a sign of solidarity in combating the coronavirus. According to Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, it expressed the “appreciation of the distinguished ties between China and Egypt”.

On 1 February, Egypt’s Health Ministry announced that Egypt provided China with the first batch of medical aid that included 10 tons of preventive medical items, such as masks and alcoholic antiseptics, to help deal with the pandemic.

Egypt’s coronavirus cases passed the 3,000 milestone earlier this week. Its total number of fatalities nationwide has exceeded 250. China’s overall confirmed cases on the mainland on Tuesday rose to 82,758, with 4,632 deaths from the virus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.

During a telephone call on 23 March with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Al-Sisi praised the Chinese success in containing the coronavirus. According to the Egyptian presidency, Al-Sisi conveyed to his Chinese counterpart Egypt’s hopes of boosting cooperation between the health establishments of the two countries to benefit from the Chinese mechanism to manage the crisis. Xi expressed his people’s and government’s “gratitude for Egypt’s quick aid to the country during the crisis”.

The two leaders agreed to boost strategic cooperation between the two countries especially when it comes to the localisation of Chinese technology, a statement by the presidency noted.

Late in February, Cairo hosted the first Chinese-Arab diplomatic salon on the coronavirus crisis organised by the Chinese Embassy in Egypt and chaired by Deputy Chief of Mission at the Chinese Embassy Xiao Junzheng.

The symposium, held at Cairo’s Conrad Hotel on 26 February, witnessed the participation of the director of the Early Warning Unit at the Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC) Samaa Suleiman, political science professor at Cairo University Mohamed Kamal, professor of risk management at Cairo University Ghada Ali, and head of the Asian Studies Programme at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies Mohamed Fayez Farahat.

*A version of this article appears in print in the  23 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under headline: United we stand


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