China sending medical team, supplies to help Philippines against COVID-19 — Philippine envoy

MANILA, Philippines, March 31 ------ Beijing is sending a medical team to the Philippines to assist in the country's fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana. This was confirmed by the ambassador at Monday's online "Laging Handa" media briefing. 

Sta. Romana added that donating medical supplies was also among the list of Beijing's initiatives, while a separate Philippine Air Force plane had also been sent to Fujian province, which had 296 confirmed cases of the virus at the beginning of March. The ambassador also said the situation in China is getting better. 

"Actually, right now, it's part of the plans mentioned by Secretary [Teddy] Locsin that there's a medical team being prepared to be sent [to the Philippines] to help us. The medical team we are preparing, [they] are underway to go to the Philippines shortly and there is continuous airlift of medical supplies from China," he said in Filipino.  "These medical supplies aren't donated from government to government but from private Chinoy, Filipino-Chinese who donated. They bought the supplies here in China and stored them at one airport where they were picked up by planes."

This comes a day after the Department of Health retracted an earlier statement it made about China-donated test kits being inaccurate for usage. Though Health Undersecretary Rosette Vergeire said on Saturday that some test kits from China were only 40% accurate and were thus stored away, she said on Sunday that it was just an unnamed brand of kits that was lacking one validation.

In slamming such claims as attempts to undermine Beijing's cooperation, the Chinese Embassy also sent reporters a transcript of a text message sent to them by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. "Hi! There is nothing wrong with the REAL TIME-POLYMERASE CHAIN REACTION machine which is used for generating positive or negative result as the case may be!" the text messages to the embassy read.  "Again your Test Kits BGI and SANSURE BIOTECHNOLOGY are very good and up to the standards as those which were donated by WHO and approved by our RITM. AGAIN OUR GRATITUDE AND APPRECIATION TO YOU AND THE CHINESE Government." Duque confirmed to on Sunday that he sent the message.