UAE residents in race against time to send medical supplies home to China

Volunteers have sent tonnes of much-needed equipment back to families hit by coronavirus

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Chinese residents in the UAE are racing against time to send medical supplies back home following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Increased but necessary flight restrictions into and out of the country risk delaying shipments of face masks and other protective clothing collected by families in the Emirates.

Frank Fu, a partner in real estate firm House Land Properties in Dubai, said his company had already sent five tonnes of equipment worth Dh1.2 million to China.

People are trying to send supplies as soon as possible because the number of flights to China keeps reducing

But he said hundreds more boxes of supplies remained in their offices in Al Quoz, waiting to be shipped.

"When our motherland needs our help then we must do something together," Mr Fu told The National.

“People are trying to send supplies as soon as possible because the number of flights to China keeps reducing.

“There is just not enough time. Many Chinese come to help and work through the night to fill the boxes.”

Dozens of major airlines have suspended flights to China in recent weeks in an effort to contain the deadly outbreak.

More than 630 people are confirmed to have died from the virus, according to Chinese health authorities.

On February 5, the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority announced all UAE flights to and from China would be suspended, with the exception of the country's capital, Beijing.

The decision has made air freighting essential supplies from the Emirates far tougher, with families in China already facing a shortage of medical goods due to factory shutdowns in the country.

“We still have so much stock and we are trying to find a way to send it,” said Mr Fu.

“We understand that countries have to protect their citizens but we are trying to find a solution to transport what is needed back home.”

Mr Fu revealed dozens of Chinese residents in the UAE had rallied around to organise collections to buy equipment like face masks, goggles and gloves.

He said many businessmen in the UAE had also opened up their warehouses to help store supplies prior to shipment.

“There are so many people in quarantine in hospitals that they need supplies,” said Jiaqi Li, who has family in the Chongqing which is near Wuhan, an area badly hit by the epidemic.

Can Cai, who works for a Dubai law firm, said UAE groups had focused on buying supplies requested by those working in hospitals in and around Wuhan.

“They gave us a list and we have bought what is difficult to get in China,” he said.

“Many factories were shut due to the Chinese New Year holidays so there was a need for supplies from abroad. We are just doing our best to help.”