A few thoughts today about the international dimensions to our Welsh struggle against Coronavirus.
In the last few weeks, I have reached out to a few countries that might be able to help us in specific ways. Here’s a quick summary:
- With Cuban doctors assisting in Lombardy and several other countries around the world, I asked the Cuban Government if they would be open to sending a delegation from the Cuban Medical Brigade to Wales if the need arose. They said yes and having checked with NHS leaders in the field that this would be useful, I passed the details over to the relevant Welsh Government officials.
- When the Basque co-operative Mondragon announced a couple of weeks ago it had designed a production line that could produce millions of PPE masks, then I got in touch to see if they were open to us building the same production line here. When they said yes, I put them in touch with the excellent team at Industry Wales and detailed discussions are ongoing.
- When the generous initiative on PPE donations by the Taiwanese Government was brought to my attention, I wrote to the Taiwanese President to ask if they might consider donating some equipment to Wales. They confirmed that a million masks had already been given to the UK and I’ve sought confirmation that we will receive our share.
Most recently I have received confirmation from the Chinese Ambassador that China is willing to help Wales in any way it can. This connection is a deep and resonant one in the context of COVID-19. It is thought that the first patient to test positive for the virus was treated at Wuhan Union Hospital, founded by Welshman Griffith John, over 160 years ago. Wuhan is Swansea’s twin city in China because of the rich legacy of Griffith John and his wife in Hubei Province. Swansea University Medical School and the Union Hospital have strong links and there has been a two-way relationship of knowledge exchange and practical support in fighting COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
The specific idea of emulating Northern Ireland in securing additional Personal Protective Equipment via the Chinese Government, both through state-owned suppliers and other manufacturers, is something I have asked the Health Minister Vaughan Gething to investigate. I hope to speak to colleagues in Northern Ireland directly this week to get more information on their PPE strategy.
I am very grateful to all those who have contacted us, both in the Welsh diaspora based abroad and those in Wales with international links, with offers of help. We will pass all the ideas and leads we are given to the Welsh Government and hope they will be followed up. Looking to Westminster, as this blog by Global Welsh argues, doesn’t always produce the result we want. In that respect, we need to look to ourselves AND look further afield. The diaspora is the vital bridge between those two valuable perspectives.
The most valuable commodity of all at the moment is, of course, knowledge. Just as physicians are sharing knowledge, policy-makers need to do the same. Germany in Europe and South Korea in Asia are two countries that have had celebrated success in the battle against the disease with their signature policies of mass testing. But a feature of the pandemic has also been the many small countries who have achieved very low fatality rates following a disease elimination rather than containment strategy. Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Georgia and Iceland – with a combined population more than seven times that of Wales- have so far registered just 29 COVID-19 deaths between them. This week as the Welsh Government continues to consider its post-Lockdown strategy. Plaid Cymru will contact these small nations to see how we in Wales could learn from their approach. As the French writer André Gide once said – and it is certainly most apt in this context: “I love small nations. I love small numbers. The world will be saved by the few”