When British Columbia hospitals treating coronavirus patients began running low on personal protective equipment, the People’s Republic of China consulate in Vancouver turned to mask diplomacy.
theBreaker.news previously reported that Consul General Tong Xiaoling and her deputies and staff packaged masks and gloves in Ziploc bags for distribution to Chinese students at area universities.
On March 26, the consulate published a statement and photographs on its Chinese website about the donation of N95 masks to two hospitals. A translation of the statement says the diplomats “urgently donated some” to Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital. The statement does not appear on the consulate’s English website, nor did it mention the quantity of the donation.
Tong was photographed outside the golden door of the government of China’s Shaughnessy mansion handing over two large boxes to Dr. John Yee, director of thoracic surgery with Vancouver Coastal Health. Another photograph shows a consular official presenting two smaller boxes to an unnamed physician outside St. Paul’s.
By email, Yee told theBreaker.news that the consulate donated 500 N95 masks.
The self-congratulatory statement on the consulate website cast China as the hero in the battle against coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan last November and was declared a pandemic on March 11 by the World Health Organization.
“With a highly responsible attitude towards the health and safety of the people, the Chinese government, with the resolute support and joint efforts of the people across the country, quickly adopted scientific and effective prevention and control measures, effectively cut off the virus transmission channels, and effectively curbed the spread of the epidemic,” a translation of the statement reads.
“Facts have proven that China’s measures taken in a timely and effective manner have earned valuable time for curbing the development of the epidemic and achieving the current results of the epidemic, and also for the world to respond to the epidemic. Of course, China’s fight against the epidemic also received support from many countries, including Canada, and the Chinese people are grateful.”
However, evidence shows that China’s response lagged while millions of people began travelling inside and outside the country, in anticipation of Lunar New Year.
The government imposed a lockdown in Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on Jan. 23. Initially, Wuhan officials spent more time censoring the virus than containing it.
Doctors blew the whistle on a WeChat group in December after seven people from a seafood market were hospitalized with SARS-like symptoms. Chinese police detained Dr. Li Wenliang and accused him of rumour-mongering. In a tragic twist, Li was diagnosed with the virus in January and died Feb. 7 in hospital.
China finally allowed a World Health Organization delegation into the country on Feb. 10 to investigate.
On March 25, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry admitted stocks of masks, gloves, goggles and gowns were “on a tenuous level.”
“The burn rate, as we call it, is much higher than we would have expected and we are putting in place measures now to try and control that and be more efficient and effective in how we’re using PPE,” Henry said.
In February, the Liberal federal government donated 16 tonnes of PPE to China, including 200,000 nitrile gloves, 50,118 face shields, 36,425 coveralls, 3,000 aprons, 1,820 goggles and 1,101 masks. There were other bulk shipments of PPE from Canada to China in January and February arranged by groups in Vancouver and Toronto that are affiliated with the Communist Party’s United Front foreign influence program.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa announced a March 27 donation by the Bank of China of 30,000 medical masks, 50,000 pairs of gloves and other items. Federal officials said the donation would be subject to Health Canada inspection. Netherlands recalled 600,000 masks imported from China.
On March 31, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said $2 billion would be spent on urgently manufacturing and buying PPE, ventilators and coronavirus testing kits, at home and abroad.
- Looking for information on how to keep yourself and others healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic? Do you have symptoms? Click here for all you need to know, from HealthLinkBC.
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