On the morning of June 29, the special assistance group, composed of professors from Cambridge, staffs from the centre and Jiangbei New Area, felt a bit relieved.
From March 21, 2020 on, lasting 100 days, with the last batch of IIR masks were delivered, a total of 54,000 pieces of PPEs from 8 Chinese donors have shipped all away from Nanjing to the University of Cambridge, UK, for supporting the two affiliated hospitals – Addenbrooke’s and Royal Papworth to flight against the Covid-19 epidemic. The rest medical supplies donated with the help of Cambridge Nanjing Centre arrived in Cambridge and were distributed to the medical staff as early as April.
The donations are from the government (Nanjing Jiangbei New Area Central Business District, Foreign Affairs Office of Ma'anshan Municipal People's Government, Shanghai Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park Development Promotion Association), domestic universities and research institutes (Shandong University, Xiamen University, CAM-SU Genomic Resource Center of Soochow University), enterprise (Naxau New Materials Co., Ltd.), and personal (Mr. Hengqiang Zhang from Shanghai) .In addition to assisting in the donation work, the centre has also provided a batch of PPEs to Cambridge hospitals to support the health care workers.
In the past 100 days, with nine busy group members in Nanjing, 4 times to publish the information on collecting medical resources, multi-contacting among the Cambridge hospitals, donors, suppliers, importing and exporting agents, freight forwarders, couriers and other related institutions, total number of over 40 entities, it has made to send out 10 batches of medical supplies, a total weight of about 1305 Kgs.
In the process of donation, the team also received many local and overseas support and help, including the Foreign Affairs Offices of Jiangbei New Area and Nanjing Municipal People's Government, Jiangsu Economic and Trade Representative Office in UK, staff of The British Embassy in China, many excellent enterprises in Jiangbei New Area, Jiangsu Soho Honry Import and Export, the COVID-19 Emergency response team, COVID-Response, of the University of Cambridge, Avenue51, BOI Trading, and etc. They have been helping to supply goods, solving transportations, dealing with customs clearance as such, and also 4CPPE fundraising program launched in Cambridge coordinate transportation transition and fees.
“We didn’t expect to pull the timeline to such a long period after we were commissioned by the university and starting the special group on 21st March. If we were not under the background of the outbreak and have dealt the business of foreign trading, purchasing and donating PPEs, it is hard to imagine how complex of the flow and how cumbersome of the progress," said a staff of Cambridge Nanjing Centre working in the special group.
This team member used the word "battle line" and "war" to recall the donation work, which is not an exaggeration. In March and April, the COVID-19 outbreak was reversed, and the epidemic outside China quickly overtook the domestic, leading to a sharp increase in the purchase of PPEs from overseas countries. The PPEs meeting the EU standards were in extremely short supply, and the customs' export policy of PPEs became unpredictable. The donor effort was full of unknowns every day, and the epidemic was not waiting for anyone. This unprecedented situation of resource shortage and uncertainty was no different from war.
Ensuring that qualified donated supplies and delivering to the front line of Cambridge hospitals in a legal and compliant manner were the “combat objective" of the special group in this campaign, for which the whole team has made great efforts.The special group's first challenge is to help donors solve procurement problems. After more than three months of assistance work, there were dozens of more medical supplies suppliers in a staff’s WeChat friends list. From “a greenhand”, who knew little about epidemic prevention supplies at the beginning, she has become a "mask expert" seen by the colleagues, who are very familiar with the standards and quality suppliers of medical supplies.
"For some donors actively contacting the center, it was very hard to provide the medical supplies meeting the hospital's standards at first, as they were lacking of the experience of distinguishing quality medical supplies and the first-hand information of the hospital's demand," explained the special group member, who was responsible for the work, "first, because the direct exposure to the virus, the medical supplies donations for the hospital are in a relatively higher standard, ordinary civil epidemic prevention supplies are not enough. Just like domestic outbreak, many domestic hospitals received a large number of civil PPEs donations, but can't be put into use for the frontline. Also, for this time, many donors wanted to donate such supplies; second, there are many differences between the EU standards and Chinese standards, including the standards for medical supplies. For example, the types of medical masks conforming to the EU CE certification, FFP2/FFP3, are corresponding to the domestic N95/N99 model. The Kn series masks used by domestic hospitals may not be applicable to Cambridge hospitals. All these require the special group to have a certain professional understanding of the medical supplies industry and the field of foreign trade.”
In order to eliminate these pain points, the special group was working with the COVID-Response Team of the University of Cambridge to understand the dynamic needs of the university hospitals, and at the same time verifying or sourcing reliable supplies for donors.
While the supply information was the most numerous and the tension of the market order was the most complicated, it came out a lot of PPEs manufacturers, but there was lack of the manufacturers with medical device manufacturing qualification and meeting up the European exporting standard. And also, different from the normal process of foreign trade, which is deposit, and then balance paid after the shipment, the outbreak brought serious shortage of production capacity and the trade process had to be changed. It made a higher requirement for qualification verification of donations and purchasing.
The member of the special group, who was responsible for selecting and resourcing, contacted at least 10 PPEs suppliers every day at the early stage to help the donors to verify the purchase contracts, production permits, the CE certificates, samples, and many other materials. It selected the safe, reliable supplies, which can meet the demand of the hospitals referred to the white list compiled by the Ministry of Commerce with the recognition of meeting foreign standards or registration.
Moreover, several members drove 180 kilometers to the site of the medical company before the Labor's Day holiday to verify the medical qualifications and production workshops of the suppliers, so as to ensure the quality of donated materials and to be responsible for the procurement funds of the donors and the front-line anti-epidemic workers.
Helping donors to screen and find qualified PPEs was the basis of the assistance, and solving export qualification and assisting customs clearance was a greater challenge. The successful clearance of each batch of materials was due to the painstaking efforts of the special group.
The first batch of donated materials was properly delivered to the Porter's Lodge of Homerton College, Cambridge in late April 2020. The donated materials were sent out and cleared before the official implementation of the No.5 Domestic Proclamation on orderly Export of Medical Materials, 2020. After that, it has been constantly encountering bottlenecks for customs clearance of the donated materials.
As the new epidemic spreads in the world, in order to guarantee product quality and safety and standardize the order of export, the Ministry of Commerce, General Administration of Customs, National Medical Products Administration dynamic adjusted the PPEs clearance standard many times, the No. 5 Proclamation requires all PPEs must be claimed formally by the qualified export, while No. 12 Proclamation further regulated to submit a joint statement between the import and export, the special group all needed to start from scratch, after finalizing international logistics channel (and even source) .
"Were we just helping to donate a number of protective clothing, originally intended to declare through customs courier path", the member in charge of the shipment recalled. Not only the trouble of declaring these 600 hazmat suits, but also the process of donating all the following supplies, it has been facing the difficulties of qualifying for exporting and the declaration. How to legally send donated materials to the UK? At this stage, the legal colleague stood out of the team to help donors and the university to modify the procurement contracts, donation certifications, receiving certifications and disclaimer agreements, with a solution of using the Chinese export agent and UK import agent, this just resolved the import and export qualification issue and the difficulties of the joint statement, and problem solved.
As a Chinese saying goes, "friends are neighbors even if they are thousands of miles apart." Facing the coordinating role of the Nanjing Centre and the support and goodwill of Jiangbei New Area, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Prof. Stephen J Toope, expressed the gratitude on the university updates of the epidemic.China has a traditional saying, called "be entrusted by others and be loyal to others", accepting the commission of the university of Cambridge and donors, from busy spring to summer, the most satisfying moment was nothing more than the successful delivery of batches of goods, and getting back bound of thank-you letters. In the case of lack of experience, the special group finally completed this commission, and worked drawing on the successful end.
"In the face of the global epidemic, human destinies are linked to each other, and when we see the smiling faces of the recipients on the other side of the ocean, and when we know that the armor was put on the health care workers, this was the best prize of the battle," said the special group members.
（in no particular order）
■ Nanjing Jiangbei New Area
Central Business District
■ Foreign Affairs Office of Ma'anshan
Municipal People's Government
■ Shanghai Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park
Development Promotion Association
■ Shandong University
■ Xiamen University
■ CAM-SU Genomic Resource Center
of Soochow University
■ Naxau New Materials Co., Ltd.
■ Mr. Hengqiang Zhang from Shanghai
Many thanks to all donors !