17:22 GMT19 February 2020
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    China this week has deployed hundreds of military officers to deliver medical and other supplies to the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province, where the deadly coronavirus first originated in December.

    A logistics team composed of 260 People's Liberation Army (PLA) officers drawn from airborne troops and air force members stationed at the Wuhan garrison, along with ground force troops from nearby military academies, began delivering supplies to ground zero this week, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported, citing Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

    The PLA logistics team delivered 200 metric tons of supplies to supermarkets in Hubei on Monday, the first day of the initiative. According to an anonymous source connected to the PLA, the logistics team also wanted to ensure donations from organizations like the Red Cross Society reach the right people. 

    “The Beijing leadership realized that almost all the donation points in Hubei and Wuhan have had delivery problems, that there are some opportunists using this crisis to make money,” the military source is quoted as saying by the SCMP.

    The Wuhan Red Cross and the Hubei provincial Red Cross have recently been slammed by locals because not enough donations of crucial medical supplies have arrived at hospitals in recent weeks. 

    According to Al Jazeera, a report on donations and deliveries from Hubei’s Red Cross reveals that it had delivered only 200,000 surgical masks to hospitals in Hubei out of the 2 million masks that have been donated from across China. In addition, the SCMP reports that local officials in Wuhan collected surgical masks, also known as N95 respirators, from the local Red Cross for their own families’ use.

    “The Wuhan Red Cross only has about 20 staff, and many of them are the wives of local officials – that’s why local officials dared to take those medical supplies [for themselves],” a medical source is quoted as saying by the SCMP. “So to prevent these type of scandals from happening again, the military troops have now taken over the medical deliveries for the Red Cross.”

    The SCMP also reported that armed police have been patrolling Wuhan this week.

    “This is a common measure used by the Chinese Communist Party to maintain public order,” Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong told the SCMP on Monday. “Beijing just announced it today because it wants to alleviate public panic over the disease that would cause a shortage of the basics.”

    Also on Monday, the PLA Air Force began airlifting medical personnel and supplies to Wuhan’s Huoshenshan hospital, which was built in 10 days in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The medical facility has 1,400 beds and is already treating patients from the outbreak’s epicenter. 

    The Post reported that eight IL-76 aircraft carrying 58 metric tons of supplies as well as doctors and nurses arrived at Wuhan’s Tianhe airport Sunday. The new medical staff members will join the approximately 450 military medical personnel treating patients in the city.

    More than 28,000 people worldwide have been infected by the coronavirus. At least 565 people have died from the virus so far, with 549 of the fatalities occurring in Hubei. 

    The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Tuesday that it was partnering with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, an American biotechnology company, to develop a treatment for the virus. Other pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna Inc, Gilead Sciences Inc and Johnson & Johnson, have also announced that they plan to develop treatments for the disease.

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    medical supplies, outbreak, Hubei, coronavirus, China
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