Volunteers and enterprises from Wenzhou of East China’s Zhejiang Province, a leading manufacturing hub, initiated donations for Italy, hit hard by the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19), which has contributed to changing some locals’ stigma and misunderstanding against the Chinese community.
Some Chinese living in Italy have met with discrimination and misunderstandings due to the virus outbreak, although the mainstream society has been supportive, said Wenzhou-based volunteer group Blazing Youth (BY) that organized the donations.
BY helped transport 2,600 pairs of protective goggles from Wenzhou on Sunday, which are expected to arrive in Italy on Tuesday, March 3, Ni Kaomeng, a BY director, told the Global Times.
The goggles were donated by eyewear manufacturers and organizations in Wenzhou, and they meet EU criteria, said Xu Haizhou, a director with the local eyeglass industry association.
“We Wenzhou people received much overseas help during our hardest time in the fight against the virus,” Xu told the Global Times Monday. “As Wenzhou’s situation becomes steady, it is our turn to offer help.”
Italy is home to the largest Wenzhou community in Europe. Some 70 percent of the nearly 400,000 Chinese living in Italy are of Wenzhou origin, said Chen Ming in Turin, co-founder and head of the China-Italy Youth Association (ANGI).
Chen said that discrimination against Chinese does exist in Italy amid the COVID-19 epidemic. “But that is just from a small number of people including a few illegal immigrants,” he said, adding that the mainstream of Italian society is friendly to Chinese on the whole.
“We hope to clear up their (local people’s) misconceptions through showing our support,” Ni said.
BY is also busy preparing donations for Greece, South Korea, Japan and the US, apart from Italy, Ni said.
A video of a Chinese man with an eye shield and a mask getting hugs from strangers in the street of Florence went viral online last month. “I’m not a virus. I’m a human,” read a paper board in front of the man.
Chen’s ANGI is working with Wenzhou donors in communicating with Italian officials during the donation process.
The healthcare authority of Italy’s Piedmont region has received 6,000 disposable gloves, 1,900 masks, 660 pairs of protective goggles and 30 protective outfits from Wenzhou individuals and groups, Piedmont government stated on its website Saturday, February 29.
The head of the Piedmont healthcare department “appreciated and applauded” it, said the statement.
“We have received positive feedback from Italians, with some even asking to participate in our donations as volunteers,” Chen told the Global Times.
Italy had 1,694 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 34 deaths as of Monday. No Chinese infections have been reported, according to Chen.
“On the premise of sufficient supplies at home, we will make joint efforts with overseas Chinese in helping other infected countries,” Ni said.
Wenzhou volunteers help transport donations related to COVID-19 for Italy. Photo: courtesy of Blazing Youth