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Panama hails Chinese help in containing outbreak

By SERGIO HELD | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-04-14 09:00
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A banner reading "Stay at Home" is pictured near an empty avenue during the curfew as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, in Panama City, Panama, March 31, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Panamanians, long familiar with the cooperation between their country and the Chinese government and enterprises, have praised China's efforts in helping Panama and other countries.

Xavier Batista, a telecommunications maintenance supervisor from Panama City, said that aid has been constant and timely, including that "from the Chinese community in Panama, which is also contributing as it can to support us".

"The aid has been welcomed and valued by Panamanians and we are optimistic that China will continue to support Panama," said Batista, noting the stepped-up contributions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Analyst Humberto Jiron said the large Chinese community in Panama is "flourishing and contributes to the economic growth of the country". At the start of April it delivered 600 bags of food staples to the needy in the Latin American nation.

Batista, complying with a shelter-in-place order along with his fellow citizens, is confident with the way that the outbreak is being managed and feels reassured by the Chinese help. "Despite China's many problems, they have always known how to get ahead, united and with discipline," he said.

Among the first group

As of Monday, Panama had seen 2,974 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 74 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. President Laurentino Cortizo's shelter-in-place order was issued on March 25.

Panama has been among the first countries in Latin America to receive humanitarian aid from China.

"The reality is that China has managed to control the epidemic in two months … (its) national industry is gradually resuming, even many factories are in full production to continue supporting the global fight against COVID-19 despite its difficulties," Wei Qiang, China's ambassador to Panama, tweeted in Spanish recently. "With science, high-tech and solidarity, we will defeat the virus."

Jiron, a former diplomat and lawyer, said that cooperation with China is not new to his country.

"China made donations before the COVID-19 outbreak, to collaborate on educational issues, scientific research, etc. Now with the coronavirus pandemic, it has also shown support accordingly," Jiron said.

Chinese companies such as Huawei Technologies, Alibaba Group and Tencent have also helped out in the region.

Huawei has donated high-tech solutions to help Panama's healthcare and education sectors. Its aid is well timed with much of the population working from home, communications severely disrupted and schools suspended.

Huawei said in a statement: "Providing the best tools to the doctors who fight day by day for the health of Panamanians, Huawei Panama implemented in 40 hours, the first platform assisted by artificial intelligence (AI) for the diagnosis of COVID-19 in the Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital Complex."

This platform, developed by Huawei Cloud and operating within an ecosystem using Huawei's AI technology, has been used in more than 20 hospitals in China.

"It has been a great support in efforts to combat the coronavirus." the company said.

In Panama, Huawei has also provided devices, video conferencing platforms and technical support to the Ministry of Health to help in the battle against the outbreak.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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