A Chinese aid package sent to the EU, including masks and test kits, will be fully allocated to Italy, as Rome faces the most urgent needs among member states in the coronavirus crisis, EU officials told EURACTIV.
On Wednesday (18 March), European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said that Chinese premier Li Keqiang promised during a phone call to support the EU against the coronavirus COVID-19.
“China has not forgotten that in January … the EU helped,” von der Leyen said in a video posted on Twitter. “Today, we are the centre of the coronavirus outbreak pandemic, and we need protective equipment ourselves.”
Spoke with 🇨🇳PM Li Keqiang who announced that China will provide 2 mil surgical masks, 200,000 N95 masks & 50,000 testing kits. In January, the 🇪🇺helped 🇨🇳by donating 50 tonnes of equipment. Today, we're grateful for China's support. We need each other's support in times of need. pic.twitter.com/2Vsw9p50Ej
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 18, 2020
On Monday (16 March), the Chinese Embassy in Brussels had sent a letter to commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarčič, offering the EU a total of 50,000 nucleic acid test kits, 200,000 facemasks (N95) and two million surgical facemasks.
The Chinese package was directed to the Emergency Response Coordination Centre, the EU’s body at the heart of its civil protection response. The Centre was responsible for the distribution of the equipment.
After taking into account various criteria, in particular the material offered and the current needs in the bloc, Brussels decided to send all the Chinese donation to Rome.
Italy is “the most appropriate recipient”, an EU official told this website.
The same source added that the country has been the most affected member state by the coronavirus COVID-19 and has “an urgent need” to stop it spreading across its territory and address the overcapacity of their health systems “as soon as possible”.
On Thursday, Italy passed China in terms of coronavirus-related deaths. The country recorded at least 3,405 deaths.
The EU decided to give all the material to Italy because the country already requested support through the civil protection mechanism.
The aid package comes on top of the supplies already sent by China directly to Rome last week.
China also sent equipment to other member states, including Spain, France, Poland and The Netherlands. Beijing also sent Chinese doctors to Italy to support its health system and share their experience in the fight against the coronavirus
China’s support to fight the pandemic came after the Europeans helped Chinese authorities last month to stop the virus.
Keqiang requested assistance to von der Leyen in late January, after which the EU sent 56 tons of supplies, including protective clothing, disinfectant and medical masks.
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism coordinated the donations provided by one third of member states: France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Estonia, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia.
(Edited by Benjamin Fox)