KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government will be sending 18 million pieces of medical gloves to healthcare workers in Wuhan amid an escalating coronavirus outbreak.
In a statement on Friday (Jan 31), Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said Malaysia is in full solidarity with the people of Wuhan.
“At present, hospitals in Wuhan, the Central Chinese city, at the crux of the coronavirus outbreak, are calling out for much needed protective medical supplies such as masks, suits and gloves, as supplies run low.
“The medical gloves, both natural rubber and nitrile, will be sent to China in batches with the first shipment being already on its way to Wuhan,” she said.
Ms Kok said that her ministry had obtained the cooperation of the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council (MREPC) and rubber gloves manufacturers in Malaysia on the initiative.
It was during the Chinese New Year period but the companies stepped forward and gave their commitment in ensuring this initiative would be a success, she said.
"Malaysian glove industry players are prepared to be at the forefront of supplying high-quality medical gloves to the world, especially in critical times such as this to battle against the outbreak and the current pandemic," she said.
Two companies, Top Glove and Supermax have already donated 2.3 million pieces of gloves through their local offices and distributors to Wuhan, she said.
Malaysia is the world's leading producer of medical gloves, with approximately 180 billion pieces exported worldwide annually.
In 2014, Malaysia sent more than 20 million medical rubber gloves to five African nations (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Congo) which were battling the deadly Ebola virus.
China has been Malaysia's largest trading partner for 10 consecutive years, with trade growing 8.1 per cent to RM313.8 billion (US$76.7 billion) in 2018.
On Friday, the World Health Organisation declared the 2019-nCov outbreak a global health emergency.
As a measure to contain the virus, the Chinese government earlier announced a lockdown of 16 different cities, including Wuhan.
The virus has claimed over 200 lives in China. Nearly 10,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide.
Malaysia currently has eight confirmed cases, all of which involve Chinese nationals.
Malaysia has said it will initiate a negotiation as soon as possible with the Chinese government to bring home 82 citizens in Wuhan.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said: “Right now, they (Malaysian citizens) are not allowed to leave Wuhan, but we want to negotiate with the Chinese government so that the Malaysian citizens who are not sick can (be allowed to) return to Malaysia".
READ: Evacuations from Wuhan: What are the risks?
He said if China allows them to return, they will be subject to 14 days of quarantine to make sure that they are not suffering from infection.
Additionally, Dr Mahathir said Putrajaya will bring in supplies to help the Chinese government when sending charter flights to bring Malaysians home.
“We are interested to help Wuhan, so if we have to send a charter flight to evacuate our citizens from Wuhan, if allowed by the Chinese government, we will also bring food, gloves and face masks because they are facing supply shortage over there,” he said.