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Interview by The Peninsula newspaper to Ambassador Prunas

Interview by The Peninsula newspaper to the Ambassador of Italy to the State of Qatar, H.E. Alessandro Prunas.


Qatar and Italy working closely in the battle against COVID-19

Doha: Qatar and Italy are cooperating closely in the fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic, said H E Alessandro Prunas, Ambassador of Italy to Qatar.

“We have a close cooperation in relation to COVID-19, which comes as a natural result of the close bonds of friendship and strategic cooperation existing between the two countries. The Amir, H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, called our Prime Minister H E Giuseppe Conte immediately after the outbreak of the pandemic in Italy and our Ministers of Foreign Affairs also shared views on the possible immediate common response,” said Prunas in an exclusive interview with The Peninsula.

“The well-established cooperation between our Armed Forces have played a crucial role in the delivery and installation of the two field hospitals donated by Qatar to Italy, a generous gesture of friendship from His Highness, the Government and Qatari people. Qatar is a also a key and reliable partner in ensuring transits of passengers through the Hamad International Airport, enabling the repatriation of Italian nationals stranded abroad as well as the transit of medical cargos. In this context, our gratitude goes to Qatar Airways which remains one of the few vectors still operating flights to many destinations, including Italy,” H E the Ambassador said.

“I am also pleased to mention that I had a very fruitful exchange of ideas with the CEO of Qatar Foundation, H E Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, on how we can combine scientific resources and know-how in the battle against COVID-19. The ideas have been quickly translated into tangible joint collaborations,” he added.

H E said that Qatar Foundation RDI, through its research programmes, is cooperating with Italian Universities of Rome Tor Vergata and of Trieste to collect and analyse clinical and genomic information to better understand the different impact of COVID-19 outbreak, depending on and according to the genome patterns of patients. Qatar Foundation Hospital Mater Olbia in Sardinia, which has been dedicated to the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Italy, is working with other Italian research institutions and Hamad Medical Corporation CDC Centre on new therapies based on the use of plasma of recovered patients.

The medical assistance extended by Qatar to Italy has contributed to further bolstering ties between the two countries.

“Since the outbreak of the virus in Italy, our health care system has been challenged by the large number of COVID-19 patients requiring the necessary medical assistance. The curve of new infections is progressively flattening in Italy and we can finally look with optimism to a gradual transition to a restart phase, the so-called “phase two”. In this context, the two field hospitals donated by Qatar through the Ministry of Defence, with a total capacity of 1.000 beds, along with the medical equipment provided by Qatar Fund, will effectively be integrated into the existing hospitals’ network to contribute to further reduce the pressure on the health system and expand the overall hospitalization capacity, while helping to maintain the required separation between COVID-19 and COVID-19-free hospitals.

“Italian and Qatari Armed Forces worked once again side by side to timely deliver and install the two field hospitals, gaining experience in the management of a new kind of emergency,” H E the Ambassador said.

Built on a solid foundation, the strong bilateral ties between Italy and Qatar, the ambassador believes, will not be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The challenge we are facing together will not impact our ambitious partnership in the long run. COVID-19 is a global emergency, affecting all countries and global markets. Italian companies and their Qatari business partners are fully aware that this health crisis is just a segment – even if a difficult one – of a very long and fruitful path. This is why both parties are sparing no efforts to adopt extraordinary solutions, at the best of their capacity, to mitigate the economic impact on ongoing projects in the short and medium term, without giving up on the efficiency and the high-level quality of our Made in Italy. Italian companies in Qatar remain therefore solid and operative, ensuring business continuity, in compliance with the sanitary measures decided by the Qatari Government to protect the safety of their workers,” he stressed.

“Last January, the State Visit to Qatar of the Italian President Sergio Mattarella, one year after the State Visit to Rome of the Amir of the State of Qatar, H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, marked at the highest level the excellent status of our partnership and the strong commitment to further develop bilateral dialogue and cooperation. We share a clear vision for the future of our relations. In every sector, we have focused on establishing well-structured partnerships and long-term projects which have created added value for both parties. This strategy has allowed us to deepen our political and institutional dialogue, to increase our bilateral trade – up to 2.6 billion euros in 2019 – to carry out joint training programmes for over 2,500 military personnel, to organize many cultural initiatives and link our universities and research centres,” he said.

“Our relationship expresses a common vision and it has an enormous potential. Amid the sense of uncertainty that we are all experiencing in this moment, I would say that this emergency could ultimately benefit international cooperation more than harming it, creating new opportunities both for Italy and Qatar to further develop and strengthen our relations.”

“In the construction, Oil & Gas and defence sectors – just to mention few fields where Italian companies are involved in important projects in Qatar – we will keep working to contribute to the national plans. We have also ideas to expand our cooperation in the scientific sector, which is a powerful leverage also for economic and cultural growth. We are confident we will overcome this pandemic, safeguarding human lives, addressing the challenges and creating new opportunities and synergies in the interest of both our people and economies,” he said.

“The Authorities have rightly introduced additional measures, making compulsory the use of face masks in offices and public places. It is also positive that Qatar has adopted new rapid-test procedures, which has enabled to carry out a growing number of swabs, reaching one of the highest rate of swabs per million of population in the world. Allow me also to say that we appreciate the efforts to provide daily updates on the situation. The commitment of the Local Authorities to constantly convey information through official communication channels, such as press conferences, official web sites and social profiles, is of utmost importance to avoid misinformation,” he added.

“I would like to convey to H H the Amir, to the Government of Qatar, the Qatari friends and all Muslim people, my most heartfelt wishes for a blessed and peaceful Ramadan. May the Holy Month be a time of spiritual reflection and growth. Ramadan Kareem!” he ended.