The volunteer experts of the Red Cross Society of China share pandemic control knowledge with community residents in Baghdad, Iraq. (Photos: Global Times)
China is offering inspirations for the Middle East in combating the COVID-19 pandemic with its own pandemic control experience as well as by sending medical teams to Iran and Iraq.
Iran is fighting one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks. A total of 16,169 people in Iran have been infected with the virus and 988 died, Reuters reported Tuesday. Iraq has 154 confirmed cases, with a death toll of 11, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Ali Mohamed Zaki, the Egyptian virologist who discovered the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, believes that the lockdown learned from China may prevent the spread of the infection and release the burden on healthcare systems.
"I will be asking Chinese scientists when the lockdown is over if there is a second wave of cases," he told the Global Times after Iran adopted similar policies last Friday.
China had a great healthcare system prepared for the outbreak by SARS, Zaki noted. "We learn from the China experience."
Yang Zhanqiu, a virologist at Wuhan University, told the Global Times that China provided not only medical materials and equipment to Iraq and Iran, but also valuable and unique pandemic control experience from its battle against COVID-19.
From the establishing a national joint pandemic prevention and control network to separately treating mild and severe cases to integrating Western and traditional Chinese medicines, China is lending its expertise, Yang said.
There are five and seven Chinese experts respectively in the two volunteer medical teams dispatched to Iran and Iraq.
"A wealth of experience is more important than the number of experts for the prevention and control of outbreak aboard," Yang noted, in response to doubts that the number of experts is not enough to help local pandemic fight.
According to Fars News Agency, Iran has established a Fangcang makeshift hospital with 200 beds to treat COVID-19 patients. Makeshift hospitals served an important role in Central China's Hubei Province in curing and quarantining patients with mild symptoms.
Like China, Islamic countries have a long history of using herb medicines, which could also be used in preventing and curing COVID-19 pneumonia, Zhu Weilie, the director of the Middle East Studies Institute of the Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times.
Therefore, China and Iran can "set positive examples for other Middle Eastern countries in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic," Zhu said, noting that more countries will seek aid from China and learn its experience.
In the meantime, Zhu warned that frequent religious gatherings may exacerbate the pandemic in the Middle East as some 2 million people will head to Mecca for pilgrimage from April to May every year.
"Large scale gatherings are risky and it is not clear whether the pilgrimage will be held or not," said Zhu, adding that "outburst of pandemic could strike the economy in these countries badly as most of the Middle Eastern countries couldn't handle the pandemic with their current medical conditions."
Many humanitarian aid couldn't reach Iran due to the sanctions imposed by the US, but China has made utmost efforts to support the country, said Zhu.
"To Middle Eastern countries, China is not only a country that took its responsibilities as a great power, but also serves as a role model in handling the COVID-19 pandemic," added
The general public and intellectuals of the Middle East are full of gratitude for the Chinese medical teams and speak highly of China's COVID-19 control efforts, Zhu learned from media and friends of Middle East.