Coronavirus: UAE sends 10 tonnes of medical supplies to Italy

Aid flight follows shipments to Pakistan, Iran and China, among other nations

Omar Obaid Al Shamsi, UAE's ambassador in Rome, pictured centre in a black suit, is shown the medical equipment shipment before it is sent on to hospitals. Protective equipment is crucial to ensuring frontline medical workers do not become casualties. Courtesy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
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The UAE sent 10 tonnes of medical supplies to Italy to help medics tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The shipment will help to support more than 10,000 doctors and nurses, the UAE government said.

Italy is one of the worst affected countries worldwide.

It had recorded 128,000 confirmed cases and more than 15,000 deaths as of Monday, April 6. About 21,000 people have recovered from the virus.

Thanks to my colleague Abdullah bin Zayed for the friendship and solidarity shown. A gesture that we will not forget

Medical aid such as masks, gloves and protective suits are crucial to ensure medics on the front line do not become casualties.

"Thanks to my colleague Abdullah bin Zayed for the friendship and solidarity shown," Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on Twitter in a message to the UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.

"A gesture that we will not forget."

Omar Al Shamsi, UAE ambassador to Italy, said Italy was thankful for the shipment, which arrived in the early hours of Monday morning.

Speaking to The National from Rome, the ambassador said the operation was arranged in less than 24 hours. Demand for new protective medical gear is high and there are shortages in many countries.

"They are in so much need for masks, sanitisers, and gloves... hundreds of thousands per month," Mr Al Shamsi said.

The ambassador and his diplomatic staff sent their families home to the Emirates when the outbreak began.

Omar Obaid Al Shamsi is briefed on the shipment after it arrived in Italy from UAE. Courtesy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

"My children wanted to stay but I told them 'you should leave because the situation is escalating'."

The embassy then tracked down the 27 Emiratis studying in Italy, and found 10 families who were on holiday.

"We reached them and asked them to leave the country before the virus spread and they immediately left," he said.

Since then, embassy staff have mostly worked from home.

Mr Al Shamsi said the situation remained serious, but deaths have begun to fall as social distancing and the lockdown in cities takes effect.

“The numbers are going down so, if God wills it, within a month officials said it will become stable."

Mr Al Shamsi said Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, was the first leader from outside the European Union to speak to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in early March, as the scale of the crisis became clear.

“Italian officials were very appreciative that he was the first to call," he said.

And he said images of Burj Khalifa lit up in the colours of the Italian flag with the message 'siamo con voi' - we are with you - were warmly welcomed by the Italian press and widely spread on social media.

On Sunday, the UAE sent an aid flight to Pakistan carrying 11 tonnes of protective equipment for medical staff.

It included 20,000 Covid-19 test kits, 500,000 gloves, 30,000 protective gowns and face masks and 10,000 sanitisers.

Pakistan recorded 2,899 cases of Covid-19, with the death toll at 45 and with 208 recovered patients, as of Sunday.

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