Chinese President Xi Jinping writes thank you note to Bill Gates for coronavirus pledge

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed up to US$100 million for the global response to the coronavirus outbreak. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping has written a letter expressing thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the organisation's "generosity" and support tackling a deadly virus epidemic, state media said on Saturday (Feb 22).

The outbreak of the new Covid-19 diesease has claimed 2,345 lives in mainland China and infected more than 76,000 people, with cases in more than 25 countries and territories.

Earlier this month the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed up to US$100 million (S$139 million) for the global response to the outbreak.

"I deeply appreciate the act of generosity of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and your letter of solidarity to the Chinese people at such an important moment," Mr Xi wrote in the letter, according to official news agency Xinhua.

China is at a "critical moment" in the fight against the outbreak, he said.

Millions remain under lockdown in central Hubei province, where the virus emerged in December, although new hot spots were found in several prisons and hospitals on Friday.

Nearly 400 new cases were reported nationwide in China on Saturday - less than half the number of new cases the previous day.

"We have rallied the whole nation and adopted a string of unprecedented measures to contain and mitigate the epidemic and treat the sick," Mr Xi wrote.

"These extraordinary measures are delivering substantial results," he said.

The Gates Foundation said the funding will be used to strengthen detection, isolation and treatment efforts, including protecting at-risk populations and developing vaccines and diagnostics.

The foundation said it would direct US$20 million to organisations like the World Health Organisation, the US Centres for Disease Control and Protection, the National Health Commission of China and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

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