Coronavirus outbreak: Situation in China

Coronavirus: China appeals for medical supplies to be sent from abroad

Beijing calls on US to fulfil aid pledges and thanks Japan for donating medical supplies

A worker setting up beds yesterday at the Hongshan Stadium to help convert the sports facility into a makeshift hospital following the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province.
A worker setting up beds yesterday at the Hongshan Stadium to help convert the sports facility into a makeshift hospital following the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province.PHOTO: REUTERS
Medical staff transferring a patient to the newly completed Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, yesterday. Two temporary hospitals have been built in under two weeks to ease the bed shortage.
Medical staff transferring a patient to the newly completed Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, yesterday. Two temporary hospitals have been built in under two weeks to ease the bed shortage.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The Chinese government has said that it urgently needs medical supplies such as surgical masks, protective suits and safety goggles as hospitals struggle to cope with the soaring number of infections from the coronavirus daily.

It has also urged the US to fulfil its promise of providing aid, a day after it accused Washington of spreading fear by pulling its citizens out and severely restricting travel for Chinese citizens.

"China has noted that the United States has repeatedly expressed its willingness to provide assistance to China, and hopes that the relevant assistance will be provided soon," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said in a statement yesterday.

Beijing also agreed to allow US health experts to visit as part of a World Health Organisation-led team to help combat the epidemic.

This came as the country's top leadership acknowledged "shortcomings and deficiencies" in the response to the outbreak, which has claimed 426 lives and sickened more than 20,000 people globally, mostly in China.

At a briefing yesterday, the National Health Commission said the discrepancy between the demand and supply of medical needs "is still very prominent", especially in the epicentre of the outbreak, which is the central Chinese city of Wuhan, in Hubei province.

The commission's director of medical administration Jiao Yahui said the authorities are working with factories to ramp up production, while also relying on imports and donations.

Hospitals are in greatest need of protective suits and N95 masks, she said, and medical workers have resorted to staying in isolation wards for long periods in order to save on these scarce items.

An acute bed crunch in Wuhan has also prompted the authorities to convert an exhibition centre, a cultural complex and a gymnasium into makeshift hospitals for those with mild symptoms of the virus. The three venues provide up to 3,400 beds and received their first patients last night.

Two temporary hospitals have been built in under two weeks to ease the bed shortage. The 1,000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital started operations on Monday, while the 1,600-bed Leishenshan will be completed today.

Wuhan now has up to 46 hospitals and 61 fever clinics designated to treat those with the coronavirus, while more than a hundred hotels are being used to accommodate medical workers or quarantine those exposed to the sick.

 
 
 

An increasing number of countries - including South Korea, Japan, Britain, France, Turkey, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Iran, Belarus and Indonesia - have donated medical supplies.

South Korea transported three million masks, 100,000 hazmat suits and 100,000 pairs of goggles in batches to Wuhan, while close ally Pakistan rounded up 300,000 medical masks, 800 hazmat suits and 6,800 pairs of gloves from public hospitals around the country to ship to China.

Iran has also donated one million masks, while Britain brought in 50,000 gloves and 35,000 sets of protective suits and goggles on an evacuation chartered flight that later flew home 41 of its citizens.

Yesterday, Ms Hua expressed gratitude to the Japanese for having donated large batches of masks, goggles and protective suits.

"Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Japanese government and its people from all walks of life have expressed sympathy, understanding and support to us," she said. "We will keep these in our heart."

The two countries have had a strained bilateral relationship.

The outbreak has resulted in the authorities sealing off Wuhan and its surrounding cities in a bid to contain the spread of the disease.

Yesterday, more cities were put under lockdown, affecting as many as 12 million people, in addition to the 56 million in Hubei province.

The city of Taizhou, in Zhejiang province, suspended nearly 100 train services starting yesterday and, together with parts of Hangzhou and Ningbo, is allowing only one family member per household to leave home every two days to buy daily necessities.

Zhejiang is the third worst-hit province in China - after Hubei and Guangdong - with more than 700 cases of infection.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2020, with the headline 'China appeals for medical supplies to be sent from abroad'. Subscribe