BELGRADE — Medical aid from China, along with the logistics of these supplies to Europe in recent months, have played a critical role in the continent”s combat against the COVID-19 pandemic.
As early as mid-March, the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy sounded an alarm to China to boost the development of a Health Silk Road, which aims to expand and strengthen cooperation among countries in Europe and across the world in the field of health.
Apart from the readiness of the Chinese government and companies as well as the help from local communities in European countries, the success of the construction of the Health Silk Road in Europe is largely due to improved connections in rail and air freight transport under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
FAST-DEVELOPING TRANSPORT TIES
So far, China has brought medical supplies and aid to over 150 countries, organized thematic video conferences between Chinese health experts and their counterparts in more than 180 countries, and sent 33 medical teams to 31 countries badly in need.
Within weeks after the first batch of assistance to Europe arrived in Rome, two teams of medical experts landed in Milan together with tons of medical supplies, setting the stage for cooperation in coping with COVID-19.
Millions of masks and medical equipment were donated by the Alibaba Foundation and the Jack Ma Foundation, of which a significant part ended up in Italy.
Soon, China spread the solidarity shown to Italy — a country that last year became the first among G7 to sign a memorandum of understanding on the BRI — across the whole continent.
The donations from the Chinese government, companies as well as local Chinese community started arriving in Spain as early as March 17, which had the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections in Europe, after Italy.
Millions of masks, protective suits, medical goggles, and testing kits soon reached other countries, such as Poland, Bulgaria and Serbia, with diverse slogans bringing hope to local people — “Love knows no border,” ” Love Stretching Thousands of Miles is Stronger than Stone,” “Unity Makes Strength,” and “Steel Friends Share Both Good and Bad Times.”
Among the greatest beneficiaries of the Health Silk Road was Serbia.
The Chinese medical team to Serbia arrived on March 21, and in the next two months toured across over 20,000 km to visit medical institutions, talked to their counterparts, shared experience and recommended measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Besides, in partnership with China’s BGI Group, Serbia built two Fire Eye testing labs with a capacity of testing 3,000 samples per day.
Moreover, the “17+1” cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries has been expanded to the field of health, enabling these countries to partake in conferences with Chinese experts and learn more about COVID-19.
Such exchanges in supplies and knowledge in the face of the raging pandemic would be impossible without the fast-developing ties between China and Europe in past years, especially in the field of transport.