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Belfast's Chinese community raises £15k to help fight coronavirus virus back home

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The number of cases of coronavirus worldwide continues to rise (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

The number of cases of coronavirus worldwide continues to rise (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

Lili Li

Lili Li

The number of cases of coronavirus worldwide continues to rise (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

Members of Belfast's Chinese community have raised over £15,000 to send vital protective clothing to their home country as new cases of coronavirus continue to soar.

China is struggling to deal with severe shortages of equipment such as protective suits, goggles and masks, which are now being sent to Belfast's sister city of Shenyang.

Around 1,200 protective suits have been despatched to the Red Cross for distribution to health workers fighting on the front line against the spread of coronavirus.

Min Shen (43) from the Chinese Welfare Association in Belfast, who has lived here for 20 years, said the city's Chinese community, which numbers some 7,000 people, wanted to help those back home.

"We had the request from authorities in Shenyang and felt it was our duty and responsibility to do what we can in a practical way," Min said.

"With the help of Belfast City Council to source the vital equipment from their suppliers, that is now happening. We set up a WeChat group to get the message out about fundraising and had donation boxes in various Chinese supermarkets and at our base at Stranmillis Embankment.

"We were delighted to have raised such a huge amount in such a short period of time," he added.

Meanwhile, for those still in China, the lockdown within the country has seen many confined indoors for days at a time.

Min is relying on mobile phone communication to keep in contact with his mother Yan Yang (68), who lives in Hankou in Wuhan, and has been in lockdown since January 20.

While members of the Irish Asian community in Dublin have reported being discriminated against due to the coronavirus outbreak, Min says that has not been the case in Belfast.

"People have been very kind and concerned about what is happening back home, which has been encouraging," he added.

As a precautionary measure, the Chinese Language School NI has temporarily closed its doors to 260 students whose weekly classes every Sunday at Stranmillis Primary School have been moved online.

Tutor Lili Li said: "The students are very understanding that we are putting safety first as a lot of them will have just returned from China after celebrating Chinese New Year with their families."

Lili Li

In China, the number of deaths from coronavirus has reached 1,380, with more than 63,000 recorded infections, in figures announced yesterday morning.

To date, 2,964 people have been tested in the UK, of whom 2,955 were found not to have it while nine tested positive. The Public Health Agency (PHA) here has confirmed that 21 people have so far been tested for the coronavirus in Northern Ireland but none of these cases were positive.

The PHA is working with partners across the UK, including Public Health England, the Department of Health and local health trusts, and the health service in the Republic of Ireland in responding to the virus.

The Belfast Trust's regional viral laboratory is also now one of 12 centres in the UK testing for the virus.

A helpline has been established for anyone in Northern Ireland who has travelled to China, Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the past 14 days.

The PHA's helpline number is 0300 200 7885 and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Belfast Telegraph