Chinese Ambassador to NZ Wu Xi: China is winning the fight against coronavirus - NZ should lift travel ban

  • 12/02/2020

By Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wu Xi

OPINION: The outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic has focused global attention on China. 

Controlling and preventing the epidemic is currently the highest priority for both the Chinese government and people. 

Since the outbreak, the government has taken a strong and responsible approach to protecting the Chinese people and the international community. 

We have responded quickly, acted comprehensively and have involved the entire country. We have set up an extensive, multi-layered system of prevention and control reaching from central government to local government, and have ensured openness and transparency in all aspects of our response.

Temporary measures of collective quarantine have been implemented in Wuhan and other places to prevent further spread of the virus. More than 10,000 medical professionals from all over the country have now arrived in Hubei Province, including Wuhan. 

Essential medical supplies such as masks, hazmat suits and medicines, as well as daily necessities such as meat and vegetables have been transported to the affected areas without delay.

Two specialised hospitals, Huoshenshan Hospital and Leishenshan Hospital were built in 10 days and have now started to receive and treat the critically ill. 

Most importantly, millions of Chinese people opted to stay at home during Chinese New Year to support the prevention work.

Our response efforts have seen encouraging results. Up until February 10, the number of people who have been cured is almost four times the number of deaths and the number of new confirmed cases outside the epicentre in Hubei province is slowing significantly. 

National Health Commission figures show the number of new confirmed cases outside Hubei was 444 on February 9, a continued decline for six days running. Statistics also suggest a notable increase in cure rates in Wuhan, wider Hubei Province and across China, rising to 6.2 percent, 6.1 percent and 8.2 percent respectively compared to 2.6 percent, 1.7 percent and 1.3 percent on January 27. 

The figures show treatment measures are achieving preliminary results across the country. Medical capacity in Wuhan and the wider Hubei Province, in particular, has been significantly strengthened as more medical staff arrive from other provinces and additional hospital beds are added.

These results are an important signal the epidemic is controllable and curable. With China's manpower, technological expertise and experience fighting epidemics over in the past 40 years, we have the commitment, confidence and ability to win the battle against the epidemic.

Alongside the health and safety of the Chinese people, we are doing our best to safeguard the health of people around the world. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China has engaged actively and responsibly with the appropriate international agencies. 

We have notified the WHO, relevant countries and regions of the epidemic in a timely manner, and shared the virus gene sequence and other information with all parties as soon as possible. We have cooperated with the WHO to coordinate and guide the response at a global level, fulfilled our international obligations, worked hard to resolve the concerns of foreign citizens in China, and safeguarded their health and safety.

China is the front line of preventing and controlling the epidemic. Facing such a serious and complex challenge, China has taken decisive steps to prevent the epidemic spreading to other countries. Airports and train stations have been regularly sterilised, with infra-scanners used to detect people's temperatures. 

So far, the total number of cases outside China is less than 1 percent  of China's cases, indicating that China has effectively curbed the spread of the epidemic globally. 

By comparison, the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009 spread to 214 countries and regions and resulted in deaths.

Fighting the spread of the epidemic is a concern shared by the entire international community. Cooperation is the best way to defeat epidemics. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, leaders of many countries and international organisations have expressed support and many countries have extended assistance and help to China. 

We appreciate New Zealand Government's support and assistance in our efforts to control and prevent the epidemic.

The Director-General of WHO Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus has expressed his appreciation for China's extraordinary measures fighting the epidemic, praising the response as a 'window of opportunity' to fight the disease. The WHO has also repeatedly underlined that it is unnecessary to impose international travel and trade restrictions on China.

Of course, it is understandable for countries to take proactive measures to safeguard the health and safety of their people. However, Dr Ghebreyesus has stated that misinformation about coronavirus makes the job of health workers even harder, causes confusion and spreads fear among the general public. Going against WHO recommendations could lead to unnecessary and negative impacts.

Recent data suggests the extent of efforts to restrict travel to and from China is not necessary. We have already seen major disruption to trade, tourism and education exchanges between China and NZ since the travel restrictions were imposed.

Financial impacts have been felt across industries, and people to people exchanges have effectively stopped. 

The travel restrictions also gave grounds to an increase in racist and xenophobic behaviour, which is deeply regrettable.

The reality is that Coronavirus does not discriminate. All groups and people are at risk, and we should work together to fight the epidemic. We hope New Zealand will follow the WHO's recommendations and lift the travel restrictions as early as possible, so normal economic, trade and people exchanges between our two countries can continue. 

China has always valued its strong friendship with New Zealand, and we believe that in the fight against coronavirus, the people of New Zealand will stand firmly with the Chinese people and work together to defeat the epidemic.

Wu Xi is the Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand