April 9, 2020 @ 7:00 by Steven Hugill
A North East city’s Chinese partner has offered to supply its ally with personal protective equipment to help it overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
The Mayor of Harbin has written to Sunderland City Council’s leader offering its full support in the fight against COVID-19.
Saying Harbin will keep Sunderland in its thoughts, Mr Sun Zhe has authorised deliveries of much-needed personal protective equipment for use by frontline medical staff.
Mr Sun – whose city [pictured left] lies in China’s northernmost province – has instructed his team to send supplies at the earliest opportunity.
Councillor Miller, who responded to Mr Sun’s letter to thank him for the support, said: “China was the first country to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, so Harbin has been through the horror of coronavirus and emerged from it – just as Sunderland will.
“Our cities share a special friendship, and it is so important we are able to support one another, particularly at difficult moments like this.
“The letter was very welcome, and it means a great deal to know the people of Harbin stand in solidarity with us as we fight this battle.
“The offer of personal protective equipment is – at a very practical level – hugely appreciated, as it will protect those who are putting their own health and wellbeing at stake in order to help others.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Mr Sun and the city of Harbin for their kindness and support during this time.”
Sunderland’s Friendship Agreement with Harbin has seen the two cities work together on a range of projects in order to foster economic growth, as well as delivering a range of projects to link schools and improve education in both areas.
It has also fostered a health partnership between the two cities.
As a result of Councillor Miller’s meetings with British Embassy colleagues during a visit to China last year, Sunderland and Harbin delivered a partnership project, supported by the British Embassy Beijing’s International Programme.
The project brought together the City Council and public health colleagues, Sunderland Royal Hospital and the University of Sunderland alongside the Harbin Health Bureau and Harbin Hospital No. 1.
A delegation visited Sunderland to share good practice last November.
Both partners signed a memorandum of understanding, with a commitment to sharing knowledge and best-practice on a range of clinical areas including diabetes care, cardiovascular health and dementia, as well as cross-cutting themes such as digital healthcare.
Councillor Miller added: “It’s during times of strife that we can really see the value of community – at a very local and international level.”