During the spread of COVID-19, besides the measures adopted by governments to tackle the pandemic, the international academic community is also taking steps to support its representatives. Thus, a Chinese partner university sent a shipment of personal protective equipment for COVID-19 to St Petersburg University with the wishes for a good health and swift resolution to the coronavirus crisis.

St Petersburg University officials were contacted by a graduate, now an assistant professor at Hebei Normal University, Wang Xu. In 2016, Wang Xu completed a postgraduate programme in sociology at St Petersburg University. A year later, he successfully defended his doctoral dissertation. In his letter, Wang Xu wrote that in view of the global situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rector of Hebei Normal University, Professor Dai Jianbing, was sending medical masks to St Petersburg University with wishes of health, optimism and hopes for a swift resolution to the coronavirus crisis. The University is awaiting the delivery of the humanitarian aid to distribute items of personal protective equipment among the staff and students in need.

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items of personal protective equipment from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in St Petersburg have been handed over to the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies of St Petersburg University, the University Halls of Residence, security posts, and teams that are currently working on online courses in the recording studio.

‘The decision of the Rector of Hebei Normal University to send personal protective equipment for COVID-19 response to St Petersburg University is an act of solidarity in line with our strategic cooperation,’ emphasised Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs of St Petersburg University.

The University expresses gratitude to our Chinese colleagues for their support. Together we will be able to successfully overcome the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, I am certain that through our joint efforts, we will attain significant results in the coronavirus research and development of the vaccine.

Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs of St Petersburg University

Additionally, a University alumnus Zhao Tengxiao sent to St Petersburg University a supply of COVID-19 antibody tests. The tests were handed over to the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies at St Petersburg University.

Diplomatic missions are making their contributions as well. The Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China and the Consulate General of the Republic of Turkey in St Petersburg sent personal protective equipment to the University as humanitarian aid.

Researchers at St Petersburg University are making concerted efforts to tackle the virus. Thus, Research Fellows at the Center for Algorithmic Biotechnology at St Petersburg University Dmitry Antipov and Mikhail Rayko participated in genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2. They helped to assemble short RNA fragments of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in a single sequence. Biologists from St Petersburg University, together with colleagues from the Institute of Cytology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University (the People’s Republic of China), began to study a peptide that could potentially block the binding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to human cells. If the experiments prove successful, then in the future the peptide can be used to create a medicine for COVID-19. Genetics at St Petersburg Hospital No 40, D. O. Ott Research Institute of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductology and St Petersburg University analysed certain parts of the genomes of Europeans and residents of north-western and central Russia. Researchers at St Petersburg University, together with colleagues from the Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza are working on a nasal spray that can block the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the upper respiratory tract.

The People’s Republic of China has been an important strategic partner for St Petersburg University for many years. Partnership agreements and joint research and educational projects provided an excellent opportunity for establishing and strengthening relationships of cooperation, solidarity and mutual support with their Chinese colleagues. In early March 2020, the University launched an online exhibition ‘In the Shadow of the Yellow Crane Tower’ dedicated to the city of Wuhan and its residents. The University staff, students and graduates gathered their best photographs taken in the streets of the capital of Hubei Province. Visitors to the St Petersburg University website can see two of the main symbols of Wuhan – the Yellow Crane Tower and Yangluo Yangtze River Suspension Bridge, as well as other landmarks and stunning city views. The exhibition excited a lot of public interest. The Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in St Petersburg expressed their gratitude for the support that the University provided in the difficult period of the outbreak of COVID-19 in China.

It is worth noting that the Russian humanitarian assistance to foreign countries during the COVID-19 pandemic aroused a worldwide interest in the Russian language. Together with the Russian Federal Agency Rossotrudnichestvo, St Petersburg University launched an educational project ‘Gaining knowledge at home’. As part of this project, free webinars are conducted by St Petersburg University experts. Thematically, the webinars focus on teaching methodologies for teaching various subjects, including the Russian language. In April 2020, St Petersburg University held a series of 23 webinars for teachers of Russian as a foreign language dedicated to language testing and modern teaching methods. Over 1,500 people from more than 100 countries participated in the online events.