EU's Von der Leyen thanks China for support including 2 million masks
Updated 06:09, 19-Mar-2020
Catherine Newman

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said on Wednesday that China will send 50,000 coronavirus testing kits and more than two million surgical masks to Europe to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a phone conversation to Von der Leyen that China is also ready to provide 200,000 respirator masks for the more serious cases. 

"I spoke today on the phone with the Chinese premier, Li Kequiang," said Von der Leyen. 

"We both agreed that the fight against coronavirus is a global one and that we need to support each other in times of need. 

"China has not forgotten that in January, when China was the center of the virus outbreak, the European Union helped. We donated rapidly more than 50 tons of protective equipment." 

She added: "I remember very well my phone call with the Chinese premier in those days. Today, we are the center of the coronavirus pandemic and we need protective equipment ourselves. 

"We are ramping up our production. We're converting new production lines. But this needs several weeks. And, in the meantime, we are grateful for support from China. The premier announced that China is ready to provide 200,000 N95 masks, 2 million surgical masks and 50,000 testing kits."

Von der Leyen said: "These can be shipped to Europe immediately. Our commissioner and the Chinese trade minister are implementing this. This support is highly valued and we are grateful for it."  

Other private donations have also been made, such as that of Chinese billionaire Jack Ma's e-commerce giant Alibaba, which has donated more than a million masks to EU members France and Spain. 

This donation came a day after the European Union sealed its borders, barring foreign nationals from arriving in the bloc for 30 days to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Europe has now recorded 3,437 deaths – including 2,503 in Italy – surpassing Asia's 3,384 fatalities, the majority of which are in China.