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China Is Now Sending Doctors, Masks and Hazmat Suits to Help Italy With Its Coronavirus Outbreak

Since COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan in December, more than 3,100 people have died of the virus across China. But now that new infections are tapering off, Beijing is sending doctors to Europe. A plane carrying a team of specialist doctors and medical equipment left China for Italy Wednesday, where the health system is under…

China Is Now Sending Doctors, Masks and Hazmat Suits to Help Italy With Its Coronavirus Outbreak

Since COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan in December, more than 3,100 people have died of the virus across China. But now that new infections are tapering off, Beijing is sending doctors to Europe.

A plane carrying a team of specialist doctors and medical equipment left China for Italy Wednesday, where the health system is under unprecedented strain from the spiraling coronavirus outbreak. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying tweeted that the team of medical experts were “ready to share their experience.”

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced the incoming deployment Tuesday night following a phone call with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. He said that China was sending “specialist doctors who faced the first peak of the coronavirus” to help deal with the surge of new patients in Italy, where 10,149 people have tested positive.

READ: Coronavirus has Italy’s hospitals on the brink of collapse

“Our doctors don’t need anyone to teach them their job, but the Chinese doctors were the first [to deal with the virus] and they can bring their experience,” he told RAI television.

The Chinese deployment reflects the shifting frontlines of the global COVID-19 epidemic, as new infections plateau in China, they’re soaring in Europe. Beijing officials have declared their outbreak “basically curbed,” and reported only 24 new cases on Wednesday, a day after Premier Xi Jinping made his first visit to Wuhan as a confidence-building measure.

By contrast, the death toll rose by 168 in Italy to 631 Tuesday, while 977 new cases were confirmed. In northern Italy, the center of the Italian outbreak, hospitals are under intense strain due to the high number of hospitalizations and cases requiring intensive care, leading to warnings of a collapse of the healthcare system if infection numbers continue to soar.

Under the agreement, China has also agreed to supply medical equipment Italy desperately needs to boost its treatment capacity. That includes contracts for 10,000 pulmonary ventilators, 2 million face masks, and 20,000 protective suits.

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Doctors say the new equipment is urgently needed amid the sudden influx of new patients. In a widely shared Facebook post, Daniele Macchini, an intensive care physician at the Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital in the badly hit city of Bergamo, described ventilators as “like gold” amid the surge of patients with severe respiratory difficulties.

Elisabetta Groppelli, a virologist and lecturer in public health at St. George’s, University of London, told VICE News that the incoming equipment would be valuable in helping Italian health authorities respond to the crisis, alongside other strategies.

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