Coronavirus outbreak: China asks world for help as over 20,000 confirmed infections now reported
China urgently needs medical masks, protective suits and safety goggles, according to authorities
China is increasingly reaching out to the international community for medical supplies, as the country finds itself in a dire position: the number of people infected with the coronavirus has crossed the 20k mark.
The country has also recorded its highest increase in deaths on February 3. With 64 new deaths, the total death toll now stands at 425.
This number also overtakes the fatalities caused by the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak in China. Currently, over 23,000 people are suspected of having coronavirus infection and 171,329 are under medical observation.
The scale of the outbreak has put a strain on China's resources, and factories capable of producing about 20m masks a day are operating at 60-70% of its capacity, according to industry department spokesman Tian Yulong.
China's foreign ministry issued a global appeal on Monday, February 3, admitting that the country is running out of its stock of medical supplies. "What China urgently needs at present are medical masks, protective suits, and safety goggles," spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
"As of noon February 2, epidemic prevention and control supplies donated by the ROK [Republic of Korea], Japan, UK, France, Turkey, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Iran, Belarus, Indonesia, and the UNICEF have arrived in China. In addition, friends in many countries have also offered us support," Chunying added.
Recently, China's Premier Li Keqiang reached out to the European Union (EU), asking for assistance. According to reports, Li spoke to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen over phone, hoping to buy supplies from EU member countries "through commercial channels".
In response, the EU has agreed to amass resources for China. "Following information from China about the need for protective equipment, the EU's Emergency Response Coordination Centre is in contact with all EU Member States to facilitate the delivery of needed personal protective equipment," a statement from the EU read.
So far, member states have already shipped a total of 12 tons of protective equipment. The President of the EU, Ursula von der Leyen, has assured Li that the EU stands ready to provide any assistance necessary to assist China in its efforts to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, according to the statement.
Additionally, the Vatican has already dispatched hundreds of thousands of face masks to the Chinese provinces of Hubei, Zhejiang, and Fujian "to help stop the spread of the contamination of coronavirus," Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told CNN.
China admits to weak response
Late Monday, China's elite Political Bureau Standing Committee — chaired by top authorities — held an emergency meeting to discuss the prevention and control of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
"The outbreak is a major test of China's system and capacity for governance, and we must sum up the experience and draw a lesson from it," leaders said during the meeting.
They also highlighted areas of improvement, including how the country manages its emergencies and its capacity for handling urgent, difficult, dangerous and important tasks. They called for a need to strengthen their public health and environmental sanitation conditions.
Looking back, the country has learned its lessons. The government is expected to clamp down on its illegal wildlife markets and trade — the source of the outbreak — as it looks to address major public health risks at the root.
However, for now, Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, will remain "top priority" and additional medical staff will be sent there, the committee said.