Wednesday, August 05, 2020

China boosts Lanka’s efforts to curb coronavirus

May 08. 2020
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By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Island/ANN

Consequent to a meeting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had with Acting Chinese Ambassador, Hu Wei, on April 29th, at the Presidential Secretariat, China yesterday (7) announced moves to provide a large stock of items, urgently required by Sri Lanka to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as the government prepared to relax the curfew on Monday (11).

Chief of Political Section and the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy, in Colombo, Luo Chong, who had been present at the meeting, said that responding to Sri Lanka’s request, 30,000 Coronavirus Nucleic Acid Test Kits (PCR-Fluorescence Probing) and 15,000 Disposable Coverall (PPEs) would be air-freighted from Shanghai to Colombo tomorrow (8). Those items were part of the third consignment of medical supplies, provided by the Chinese government, Chong said, adding that China Eastern Airlines flight MU 231 would carry out the task.

The Chinese Embassy said that the remaining medical supplies of the third consignment would be moved to Sri Lanka as soon as possible.

According to Chong, the third batch of supplies would include 30,000 test kits, 30,000 PPEs, 30,000 KN95 masks, 30,000 protective goggles, and 600,000 surgical masks.

The Presidential Secretariat said that Hu Wei, who is also the Charge d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy, reiterated China’s commitment to post-corona economic revival.

In addition to medical supplies, donated by China, various Chinese state enterprises, as well as individuals, had provided 42,024 test kits, 958,730 surgical masks, 139,280 KN95 masks, 14,380 PPEs and a range of other medical supplies, from the time of the COVID-19 outbreak, in Sri Lanka, up to April 24th, Chong said.

Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Anil Jasinghe recently reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s faith in Chinese test kits and other equipment. Dr. Jasinghe said that there was absolutely no issue with medical supplies, provided by China. The DGHS said so when Derana anchor, Chathura Alwis, questioned the top health official regarding the quality of Chinese test kits.

During talks between President Rajapaksa and the Acting Chinese Ambassador, the latter said that in addition to the Chinese government, leading Chinese enterprises, and banks, would throw their weight behind Sri Lanka. Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the President, too, had been present at the meeting.

The President’s Office spokesperson quoted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as having told Hu Wei that the sharp drop in foreign exchange earnings, as a result of losing income generated by apparel and tourism, posed a massive challenge. The President also said that the situation was such that quick global economic recovery could not be expected, hence the decision to adopt, what the President’s spokesperson described, as a new development model.

Within a week, after Sri Lanka reported its first COVID-19 case, on March 10, the government negotiated a US$ 500 mn loan from China to strengthen the economy. The China Development Bank and the Ministry of Finance signed the agreement, on March 18, at Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Office. Chargé d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy, Hu Wei, was also present at the signing of the agreement.

Government sources said that it was the first major loan received after the dissolution of parliament, on March 02. Sources said that in addition to China, Sri Lanka received assistance from several others, including India, the US and the EU, to strengthen government efforts to curb the marauding COVID-19.

Former State Minister of Development Banks and Loans, Shehan Semasinghe, told The Island that foreign assistance received, over the past several weeks, greatly strengthened Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 eradication programme. Having finalized plans to gradually re-open the economy, beginning Monday, May 11, though the Western Province and Puttalam administrative districts would remain under curfew, the government remained alert to face any eventuality, Semasinghe said.

Responding to a query, the former Anuradhapura District lawmaker said that the Opposition was propagating the lie that those struggling to make ends meet, due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, were deprived of funds received from various countries. Semasinghe regretted that the Opposition, both the Samagi Jana Balavegaya and the UNP, played politics with the government efforts to control COVID-19 and provide relief to the people.

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