Feature: "Same sky, one world": overseas Chinese help Europe fight coronavirus

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, April 15, 2020
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by Yang Xiaohong

PRAGUE, April 14 (Xinhua) -- For Li Qiyu, a Chinese woman who has been living in the Czech capital for almost 10 years, this Easter holiday was much different from previous years. Rather than getting together with friends and family, she and the members of her group of volunteers went out to distribute face masks to all those in need, from supermarket cashiers to policemen, or even just people passing by.

"It's critical time as people are more likely to ignore the risks and get together," she said. "We don't want the situation to get worse because of the holiday, so we continue to give face masks to people and call their attention to the need to keep vigilant."

Li and her group have been distributing face masks since early March, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the country. Since then, the Czech Republic, like many other European countries, have been struggling with a severe shortage of medical supplies, including face masks. "When we learned that even outpatient doctors here didn't have masks to wear or had to wear hand-made cloth masks, it was hard for us to just sit tight," Li said, recalling the launch of her group of volunteers.

The face masks they distribute come from various channels, dozens from their own reserves, hundreds from donations.

"We don't have large quantities of face masks at our disposal, and what we can do is limited," she said. "We just want to help as much as possible and show our solidarity with the city which is now our second home."

The Czech Republic has reported more than 6,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the first three cases were diagnosed on March 1. Prague is still under lockdown, and Prime Minister Andrej Babis in his Easter holiday address two days ago called on citizens to continue to observe social distancing and wear face masks in public. He thanked all tradesmen and professionals, including the volunteers, who helped combat the virus.

"We're happy he mentioned 'volunteers' in his speech, we reckon we were included," Li said.


Yu Xi is a Chinese student from Beijing Foreign Studies University currently on an exchange program at Vilnius University in Lithuania. Last month, he collected and translated first-hand information about the pandemic for the local Chinese community.

"I am glad to be able to use my skills to help the overseas Chinese living in a foreign country to know the latest news on the pandemic. This was my contribution," he said.

He was a bit worried at first, living far from home and lacking protective equipment in a pandemic-stricken area. But the fear eventually eased as the Chinese Embassy and companies began to ship anti-epidemic materials from China to Lithuania. Part of the supplies was donated to local governments and frontline personnel, and the rest was distributed among the local Chinese community.

In Belgium, Italy and France, the "Green Ribbon Initiative" is now bonding the European Union (EU) and China through the delivery of Chinese medical supplies to the most affected areas. A total of 146 Chinese and European organizations have participated in this complex program to date. The World Green Design Organization (WGDO), a Belgium-based non-governmental organization and one of the sponsors of the "Green Ribbon Initiative," has brought together more than 400 Chinese and overseas Chinese people living in Italy, France and Belgium to gauge local demand for medical supplies in Europe and help organize distribution to relevant hospitals.

For example, aware of a bottleneck in Belgium's current testing capabilities, the WGDO has contacted a Chinese provider to donate testing kits to the country. The organization is still busy building a bridge to collect medical equipment donated by China to Europe, such as disposable masks, protective clothing or goggles.

"We are under the same sky and we live in the same world," said He Weidong, president of the WGDO. "That's why we have to stand together with everyone in the world to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic."

Europe is now one of the regions most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 14, nearly one million coronavirus cases had been confirmed on the continent. Enditem

(Xinhua reporters Guo Mingfang in Vilnius and Yu Yue in Brussels contributed to the article)

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