The city of Harbin in China’s North East Heilongjiang (Black Dragon River) province is to donate Personal Protective equipment (PPE) supplies to Sunderland “at the soonest opportunity”, the local council confirmed on its twitter account, honouring its sister city agreement with Wearside that was signed in 2009. The Mayor of Harbin, Sun Zhe, also wrote a personal letter to the council’s leader Graeme Miller wishing the city well and that he would be thinking of its residents.

Councillor Miller responded to Mr Sun’s letter and thanked him for the support, said: “China was of course the first country to be hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, so Harbin has been through the horror of Coronavirus and emerged from it – just as Sunderland will.

“Our cities share a special friendship, and it is so important that we are able to support one another, particularly at difficult moments like this – the letter was therefore very welcome, and it means a great deal to know that the people of Harbin stand in solidarity with us as we fight this battle.

“The offer of PPE is – at a very practical level – hugely appreciated, as it will protect those who are putting their own health and wellbeing at stake in order to help others. I’m incredibly grateful to Mr Sun and the city of Harbin for their kindness and support during this time.“

It’s during times of strife that we can really see the value of community – at a very local level and at an international-level – and the strong global network we have established, and the trusting relationships we share as a result, means we have a great deal of support, goodwill and in this case, very practical help, from our friends around the world. We’re incredibly grateful.”

The donation from Harbin to Sunderland also honours a health cooperation partnership signed a year ago between Sunderland Council, the University of Sunderland and the area’s Royal Hospital, with the Harbin Health Bureau and Harbin Hospital No. 1.