BEIJING (XINHUA) - China and Italy reaffirmed bilateral ties in a phone call between the two countries' foreign ministers, with Beijing offering to provide Rome with medical aid to help fight the coronavirus. Separately, eastern Zhejiang province donated thousands of boxes of protective gear to help overseas Chinese in the European nation.
In the phone call on Tuesday (March 10), Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said the two nations' friendship would see new progress as they work to tackle the fast-spreading virus.
Mr Di Maio briefed on Italy's latest development on the epidemic prevention and control work, and thanked China for its support for Italy.
Pointing out the severe situation in Italy at present, Mr Di Maio said the Italian government is paying close attention to and learning from China's successful experience in the battle against the virus, taking strong measures to prevent the spread of the disease.
Italy is facing a shortage of medical supplies and equipment, said Mr Di Maio, expressing hopes that China would help resolve their urgent need.
Overseas Chinese living in Italy have played an active role in the fight against the epidemic, said Mr Di Maio, adding that Italy will continue to take full care of their health and safety.
Mr Wang said that as a good friend and comprehensive strategic partner of Italy, China fully understands the challenges Italy is confronting.
The epidemic knows no border and is a common enemy of mankind, Mr Wang noted as he called for solidarity from the international community to combat the virus.
Upholding the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, China is dedicated not only to making all-out efforts to keep the Chinese people safe and sound, but also to making contributions to global public health security, Mr Wang said.
China recently made donations to the World Health Organisation to support international cooperation on the Covid-19 fight. China is also offering help within its capacity to countries where the epidemic situation is severe or where medical conditions are poor, Mr Wang said.
Noting that the Chinese people will not forget Italy's support when China was facing its toughest moment in the fight against the virus, Mr Wang said China is now willing to stand firmly by the side of the Italian people.
Though China itself at present still needs a large amount of medical materials, the country, overcoming the difficulties, will offer Italy with assistance like medical materials including face masks, and accelerate and enhance the exports of supplies and equipment to meet Italy's urgent need, Mr Wang said.
If the Italian side requires, Mr Wang said, China would like to send medical personnel to Italy to help combat the novel coronavirus.
The Chinese cities and provinces that enjoy friendship relations with their Italian peers, as well as Chinese enterprises, will also offer support and aid to Italy, the minister added.
Mr Wang said he believes the joint battle against the coronavirus will help deepen bilateral relations between the two countries, and enhance the friendship between the two peoples.
China appreciates that the Italian side has paid high attention to the health and safety of the Chinese nationals in Italy, and hopes that Italy will continue to offer them necessary help and support, the minister said.
Hand in hand, China and Italy will prevail over the epidemic eventually, Mr Wang added.
Donations for overseas Chinese
On Wednesday, China's eastern Zhejiang province sent 3.86 million pieces, or 4,556 boxes, of protective gear to help overseas Chinese in Italy.
A cargo plane loaded with 26.4 tonnes of disposable masks, N95 medical masks, goggles, latex gloves and other protective clothing left the provincial capital of Hangzhou for Europe at 5.50am, Xinhua reported.
Zhejiang’s first batch of donations for overseas Chinese came from people from all walks of life in the province. More than 300,000 Chinese people from Zhejiang live in Italy.
“Since the outbreak of novel coronavirus, overseas Chinese of Zhejiang origin have tried every means to purchase epidemic prevention materials and support their hometown to fight the epidemic,” said Mr Zhang Weiren, vice-chairman of the Zhejiang Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese. “Overseas Chinese are now in difficulty, and their relatives in the motherland should give them the utmost support."
Due to the suspension of direct flights between China and Italy, the donations would arrive first in Liege, Belgium, and then be transferred to Italy, said Mr Gao Kaiyong, deputy chief of the general office of the Zhejiang Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese.
“If all goes well, the goods will arrive in Turin, Italy, this weekend,”