Stay on Alert, No Need to Panic

13Feb 2020
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Stay on Alert, No Need to Panic
  • Interview with H.E. Wang Ke, Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania, on Novel Coronavirus Outbreak, on 7 February

Q: Since its outbreak in December 2019, the novel coronavirus has infected over 28,000 people and spread to more than 20 countries. Should we get worried and panic?

H.E. Wang Ke, Chinese Ambassador.

A: The novel coronavirus outbreak has become a matter of common concern worldwide. Since its first infection was diagnosed in Wuhan, a megacity with 11 million population in central China Hubei Province, the virus has been spreading at a speed beyond expectation. As of 24:00 6 February, 31,161 confirmed cases and 26,359 suspected cases were reported in mainland China, with 1,540 cases of patients cured and 636 fatalities. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 6 February, 24 countries have reported a total of 216 confirmed cases, with only one fatality.

Faced with such a serious challenge, the Chinese people have not lost heart. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Chinese government has been taking the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures with a high sense of responsibility for people’s health, many of these measures go well beyond the requirements of the International Health Regulations (IHR).

The Chinese government mandated a quarantine of the Wuhan city; new hospitals have been constructed in Wuhan to further enhance local public health capacities; the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays have been extended to keep the nationwide migration of population at the minimum level; 31 provinces and municipalities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have also taken measures on first-level response to this major public health emergency. At present, high-level emergency alerts have been activated all across China and vigorous public health measures taken to identify, diagnose, and isolate infections or suspected cases at the earliest moment.

What’s more, China has been in close communication and cooperation with the WHO and other countries, releasing information in an open and transparent manner, and sharing the genetic sequence of the virus with the international community.

China’s efforts to contain the epidemic have brought encouraging news. Firstly, cured cases have exceeded fatal ones by a significant margin. For example, on 5 February, 261 patients were cured and discharged from hospitals, whereas only 73 patients died from the disease. Secondly, the total number of confirmed cases outside of China is less than one percent of that in China, which shows China’s response in curbing the spread of the epidemic globally is very effective. Thirdly, with China’s unrelenting efforts, the mortality rate of novel coronavirus in China is about 2.1%, much lower than the mortality rates of 2009 H1N1 flu, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) of 2012 and Ebola, which are 17.4%, 34.4% and 40.4% respectively.

There are some fears of transmission of novel coronavirus from infected persons with no symptoms. Actually such cases are very rare because the infected persons with no symptoms account for only a small proportion of all infected patients and the number of viruses in such persons are very few.

All in all, I think there is no need to panic in the face of the novel coronavirus outbreak, and we have full confidence and capability to contain the outbreak.

Q: In the face of the quick spread of the deadly virus, I think international solidarity and support is very important for China to win the battle against the epidemic. Until now, what kind of support has China received from Tanzania?

A: Sure. With China making all-out efforts to fight the epidemic, many countries have expressed their sympathy and support to China, including Tanzania.

President John Pombe Magufuli recently handed me a letter to President Xi Jinping, in which he expressed Tanzania’s willingness to stand firmly with China at this tough time. Prof. Palamagamba Kabudi is the first foreign minister of Sub-Sahara African countries who made a phone call to Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to express appreciation of China’s efforts after the outbreak of the epidemic. During the 146th session of the WHO Executive Board meeting, the Tanzanian delegate, on behalf of African countries, emphasized that owing to China’s great efforts and sacrifice, Africa has so far no confirmed cases. China cherishes those support rendered by Tanzanian friends, which embodies our deep-rooted relationship.

Q: The WHO has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, but disfavored adoption of travel and trade restrictions. What’s your opinion on this?

A: With the utmost openness and promptness, the Chinese government is working closely with the WHO on every step of the epidemic. On 30 January, the WHO declared the global outbreak of novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. As the Director-General Mr Tedros said, the main reason for the declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries, and the greatest concern of the WHO is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it. Actually in many ways, China is setting a new standard for outbreak response, which has been acknowledged by the WHO.

is true that the WHO does not recommend, and actually oppose any travel or trade restrictions based on the current information available. The WHO’s Emergency Committee further noted that evidence has shown that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies may be ineffective, interrupt needed aid and technical support, disrupt businesses and have negative effects on the economies of the countries affected. In the 146th session of the Executive Board, the WHO once again called on all countries in the world to implement the decisions that are evidence-based and consistent.

Q: What are the Chinese government doing to guarantee the safety of Tanzanian students who are stranded in Wuhan and what is their status? Is it necessary for Tanzania to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan and other severely affected areas in China now?

A: As a mother, I fully understand the feelings and concerns of the Tanzanian parents whose children are currently studying in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak. I would like to take this opportunity to tell Tanzanians the real situation in Wuhan.

Firstly, as far as I know, there is no novel coronavirus case or suspected case among Tanzanian students who are currently studying in Wuhan.

Secondly, Tanzanian students in Wuhan are safe in their respective universities. They are taken good care of by the local authorities. For instance, in Wuhan University, foreign students are provided free meals, face masks, disinfectant and psychological counseling. University staff disinfects surrounding areas of the student dormitories every day. Foreign affairs offices at all levels in Hubei Province have opened 24-hour hotlines for expatriates, providing timely information and assistance when such need arises. Moreover, each university in Wuhan has designated a contact person for foreign students and publicized that person’s name and mobile phone number online.

Thirdly, to reduce people-to-people contacts, all universities in Wuhan have postponed the start of the upcoming semester. The specific date to begin the new semester will be announced later depending on the status of the epidemic.

By the way, the provision of necessities in Wuhan and other cities in China is sufficient. The Chinese government has pledged efforts to sustain continuous supply of necessities to coronavirus-stricken areas, arranging daily transport of vegetables, cooking oil, rice and flour to Wuhan. Please be rest assured that the Tanzanian students in Wuhan and other cities in China will get sufficient food and other logistic support.

When meeting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO does not recommend the evacuation of nationals, and called on the international community to remain calm and not overreact. Based on the professional advice from the WHO and considering the current situation in Wuhan, including the fact that China is pooling its resources to the city to fight the epidemic, it is a wise and safe choice for Tanzanian students to stay in Wuhan as it is good for themselves, their families and their country.

Q: What advice do you have for Tanzanians and the authority here?

A: The Tanzanian Government has taken swift and responsible measures to prevent the importation of novel coronavirus cases from foreign countries and get prepared for such possibility. Major measures taken by the Tanzanian authorities include screening all incoming passengers at all major entry points, setting up Infectious Diseases Units in Kilimanjaro, Mwanza and Dar es Salaam, providing training to health practitioners on how to deal with infectious diseases and disaster management, and opening 24-hour toll-free hotlines for the general public to report suspicious cases. We believe that the Tanzanian government will intensify its efforts to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, and China will stand firmly with Tanzania in this regard.

I also hope Tanzanians follow the instructions and guidelines given by relevant authorities, both national and international, in order to perceive the disease and protect themselves in a rational and scientific way. On the one hand, people should be cautious and pay more attention to hygiene and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. For instance, wash your hands with soap more frequently; avoid close contact with anyone with fever and cough, eat nutrient food and take exercise regularly, etc. On the other hand, you should learn some knowledge about the novel coronavirus so as to not get in a panic.


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