Coronavirus: China sends medical supplies, personnel to Pakistan

China has sent a plane loaded with medical personnel and supplies to aid Pakistan in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus in one of the world’s most populous nations, the Pakistani foreign ministry said Saturday.

Across the Middle East, the outbreak has raised concerns that health systems strapped by multiple wars, refugee crises and unstable economies won’t be able to handle a growing numbers in cases. Iran is battling the worst outbreak in the region. Iranian state TV raised Saturday that the virus death toll by another 139 people, pushing the total fatalities to 2,517 amid 35,408 confirmed cases.

China has sought to portray itself as a global leader in the fight against the outbreak, which began a few months ago in its Wuhan province. The plane carrying aid to Pakistan was expected to arrive later Saturday.

Pakistan is a key link in China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar One Road Project linking south and central Asia with China. China is also a key military supplier for nuclear-armed Pakistan, having supplied the country with missiles capable of carrying atomic weapons.

Pakistan, with a population of 220 million, currently has 1,321 confirmed cases of the virus, including 10 deaths from the illness it causes, COVID-19. Most of the infected people there were travellers returning from neighbouring Iran.

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