Opinion: Less infected Italian city Prato refutes China-bashing with facts

Huang Qinhai (2nd R), a representative of overseas Chinese in Prato, donates masks to staff members of golden cross association, a charity organization that provides ambulance service, in Prato, Italy, March 28, 2020. (Xinhua)

The preparation against the spread of the epidemic made by Chinese residents in Prato was based on the news out of Wuhan and the broader China. One difference worth noting is that they put their knowledge into action faster than most other ethnic groups. Thus it is hypocritical and ridiculous to blame China for not issuing an alarm.

(Xinhua) — Facing such a rampant pandemic like the novel coronavirus disease, less infection means more lives are saved and a bigger chance of winning by the human side.

While mourning every loss of life, people also need to draw lessons from the less infected regions, in order to know ways of better protection and to see through deceptive claims.

A successful story much reported recently comes from Prato, Italy. According to many European media such as Reuters, Politico Europe, and la Repubblica, it is a town densely populated with ethnic Chinese, many of whom returned from China in the early days of the pandemic, but maintaining zero infection in the local Chinese community so far.

Renzo Berti, a key local health official, as reported by Reuters, credited the ethnic Chinese with “bringing down the entire town’s infection rate to almost half the Italian average.”

They “had a positive impact also on our citizens and therefore we were better prepared when the storm arrived here,” Prato Mayor Matteo Biffoni said in an interview with Xinhua.

People wearing face masks wait at a bus stop in Milan, Italy, on May 1, 2020. (Xinhua)

Looking back at what happened there since the outset of the outbreak, one can not only discover the prompt preparations made by the Chinese, but also debunk some deceptive claims attacking China’s response to the epidemic.

The accusation that China intentionally hid the epidemic from the rest of the world is an utter lie as China was the first to report the COVID-19 outbreak to the World Health Organization and other countries, and invited foreign experts to have field studies in Wuhan.

Shortly after China put Wuhan, a central Chinese city with over 10 million population, on lockdown on Jan. 23, strict measures of social distancing and mask-wearing soon followed nationwide.

The preparation against the spread of the epidemic made by Chinese residents in Prato was based on the news out of Wuhan and the broader China. One difference worth noting is that they put their knowledge into action faster than most other ethnic groups. Thus it is hypocritical and ridiculous to blame China for not issuing an alarm.

The second accusation that the figures released about the infections and casualties in Wuhan were vague, letting Chinese people irresponsibly spread the coronavirus to places less guarded for the virus attack, is also groundless if one knows anything about the Chinese people’s strict self-discipline and determination to defeat the virus.

A man wearing a protective suit stands on a street in Rome, Italy, April 30, 2020. (Xinhua/Cheng Tingting)

Since the first confirmed cases were detected, China started its daily updates about the epidemic situation to the WHO and sharing important information with scientists across the world, including those in the United States and Europe. Meanwhile, Chinese governments at all levels repeatedly cautioned citizens about personal protection measures.

In the case of Prato, which is about 232 km away from Milan, one of the hardest-hit metropolises in Europe, though hundreds of Chinese returned from China between the end of January and February, no infection was reported in the community.

“Many important measures, that we learned later, were implemented (in the Chinese community), like isolation, protection and use of the masks. This is the reason why Prato was less affected by the virus if we compare with other places,” Berti told Xinhua.

Describing the Chinese community as “auto-controled” when there were no national guidelines in Italy, Berti said, “I had the feeling there was a sort of auto-surveillance, so if a Chinese citizen was coming back from China, the first to tell him to be in quarantine were his compatriots.”

Many Italians in Prato shared similar views that the behavior of ethnic Chinese was anything but irresponsible and was even considered overreacting at that time. What they have achieved clearly demonstrates the corelation between proper precautions and infection prevention.

Moreover, their unselfish assistance to the local community has also pierced the lie that masks in Prato were depleted by the Chinese.

Medical staff work at an intensive care unit in Sant’Orsola-Malpighi hospital in Bologna, Italy, on April 29, 2020. (Photo by Gianni Schicchi/Xinhua)

There was no secrecy that overseas Chinese sent personal protective equipment back to the Chinese mainland at its most testing moments and their affection for their beloved ones in their motherland is widely understood by most of the international community.

Mayor Biffoni told Xinhua, “I was aware about that because we received a communication from them about that. I understand that at the early stage our Chinese community felt the need to send the medical equipment.”

Nevertheless, the ethnic Chinese’ love for the places where they live should not be erased.

As Biffoni said, “On the other side, the Chinese community brought here hundreds of thousands of masks, hand sanitizers, and other things. All these medical materials are still coming and the flux will continue also in the future.”

Helping others will usually help oneself. This piece of ancient Chinese wisdom is what the Chinese people believe and follow.

“As of Apr. 20, China had provided the U.S. with over 2.46 billion masks, meaning 7 masks for each in the U.S.,” according to a tweet by the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunyin. Meanwhile, Chinese customs data showed that China exported 3.86 billion masks between March 1 and April 4.

Last but not least, the solidarity among different communities in Prato helped the city emerge from the pandemic stronger. As the battle against the coronavirus continues, more stories about the Chinese community in Prato will gain it better notice and admiration.

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