China is one of the few counties that have been on the forefront in helping Zimbabwe fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a country under Western sanctions, Zimbabwe has failed to obtain significant financial bail-outs from major multilateral lenders to fight the disease, but China has stood behind the country, offering the much-needed assistance that has helped strengthen the country’s response to the pandemic.
As of July 7, the country’s COVID-19 cases stood at 787, including nine deaths and 201 recoveries.
The Asian country was among the first countries to extend a helping hand, well before the country had recorded its first case in late March.
Chinese companies operating in the country were the first to offer over 500,000 U.S. dollars in March for the rehabilitation of Wilkins Hospital in Harare, the country’s main isolation and treatment center for COVID-19.
The renovation enhanced the hospital’s capacity to handle infections, increasing beds for COVID-19 patients to about 60 from 35, with an additional 10 beds designated for the intensive care unit.
Commenting after completion of the renovations, Prosper Chonzi, the medical director of the hospital, said staff members were able to attend to patients in an improved and better equipped hospital.
“We are now able to manage some of the critically ill patients. We are happy that we now have proper ICU beds and proper state of the art ventilators, not in the numbers we would want but at least we can save more lives now,” he said.
During the same month, the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation chipped in with a huge consignment of medical supplies to help the African country combat the disease, including 20,000 laboratory diagnostic test kits, 100,000 medical face masks and 1,000 protective suits and face shields.
Since then, the Chinese government, through its embassy in Harare and Chinese firms operating in the country have been taking turns to hand over donations of anti-virus medical supplies to Zimbabwe.
In April, the Chinese government handed over a significant consignment of medical supplies and equipment to Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa to help the country fight COVID-19.
The supplies that were handed over by Chinese ambassador Guo Shaochun include 166,000 face masks, 7,600 protective suits, 20,000 test kits, 12,000 pairs of gloves and five ventilators.
Guo said amid the COVID-19 pandemic, China-Zimbabwe ties continue to blossom as evidenced by the two countries’ joint fight against the disease.
“It is truly gratifying to see that under the enormous stress of COVID-19, China-Zimbabwe friendship is standing stronger ever.”
In May, a Chinese medical team from central China’s Hunan Province arrived in Zimbabwe to assist the southern African country’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19.
The 12-member team brought along with it a consignment of medical supplies including ventilators, nucleic acid testing kits, face masks and medical protective suits.
During its two-week mission, the team shared its experience in epidemic control with the Zimbabwean side and offered training for medical workers on the prevention, control, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
The country’s Vice President Kembo Mohadi, who hailed the timely visit, said the team’s presence in the country not only enhanced its COVID-19 strategy but helped boost the morale of the country’s heroic frontline staff.
Last month, the Chinese government donated its second batch of anti-virus medical supplies to Zimbabwe, at a time when cases had started to rise sharply driven mainly by imported cases.
The second batch included 165,000 surgical masks and more than 25,000 pieces of personal protective equipment.
For all this, President Mnangagwa has hailed China for its assistance to Zimbabwe in fighting the pandemic, noting that Zimbabwe was now reasonably prepared to handle COVID-19 cases due to support from China, among other donors.
“We remain most grateful for the assistance that continues to be extended to us by the Government of China towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”