‘True friend’ China helps Algeria battle coronavirus

Monitoring Desk

Algiers: As adversity strikes in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, Algeria has found a helping hand in China, an old friend and the top exporter to Africa’s largest country.

An Air Algerie plane arrived in the capital Algiers from Beijing on March 27 carrying a 13-member Chinese medical team and equipment, including respirators, worth around $450,000.

The supplies were donated by the state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) on behalf of Beijing to help Algeria battle its COVID-19 outbreak.

With 1,251 officially declared cases, including 130 deaths, Algeria is worse hit than its North African neighbours Tunisia and Morocco, and its health sector is in dire need of improvement.

The government announced Saturday it was extending its night-time curfew — until now in place only in the capital and 13 of Algeria’s 48 provinces — across the whole country.

China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged in December, has been helping other countries fight the disease, offering masks, experts and equipment.

Algeria, with a population of more than 40 million, has placed orders with China for 100 million face masks, 30,000 testing kits as well as protective medical clothing and other equipment.

China is also expected to build a small hospital in the North African country to provide preventive care for roughly 5,000 Algerians and 4,000 Chinese employed by CSCEC, official Chinese media reported, without providing further details.

Chinese nationals make up the largest group of expatriates in Algeria, estimated at several tens of thousands of people.

Most of them are employed on large construction sites, such as for the Grand Mosque of Algiers — one of the world’s largest — erected between 2012 and 2019 by the CSCEC group.

The company is behind multiple infrastructure projects across Africa, with a base in Algeria.

“Algeria has special ties with China,” Smail Debeche, a professor of international relations at the University of Algiers, told AFP. (AFP)

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