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Transcript of the Interview with Ambassador Wang Ke by TBC

Q: Since the novel coronavirus, now named COVID-19, was detected in Wuhan City, China in December 2019, more than 70,000 people have been infected and the virus spread to 25 countries worldwide. It was reported that around 1,800 people have died because of the new coronavirus. Your Excellency, could you tell us briefly how is the situation now in China? Is it turning better?

A: I just use some figures to brief the situation since you mentioned some figures. Up to yesterday that is 17 Feb., there were 1,886 new confirmed cases and 72,436 confirmed cases in accumulative terms, 98 new deaths and in accumulative term is 1,868 fatalities. These figures show that the situation is still serious. However, we can see some positive changes: Firstly, the number of new confirmed cases outside Hubei, the epicenter, has dropped for a 15th consecutive day of decline and the new number was only 79 for yesterday, and the number of cured and discharged cases has accumulated to 12,552. Across China, there are 19 cities whose new confirmed cases have fallen to 0. Secondly, the fatality rate of COVID-19 is less than 2.5% nationwide, and that outside of Hubei is just 0.6%, which is much lower than the fatality rate of Ebola virus, SARS and other highly infectious diseases. Moreover, we can see that the situation is improving a lot.

Q: What measures has the Government of China taken to contain the spread of the virus and protect the lives and health of the Chinese people?

A: Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese Government, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, puts ensuring health and safety of people as the priority work, and implements the strictest, the most comprehensive and uncompromising measures in controlling and preventing the epidemic, which are well beyond what is required by the International Health Regulations and the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). The measures can be summarized as “3S”.

The first “S” is strictness. China has adopted the strictest prevention and control measures in history. Since 23 January, China has blocked down Wuhan City with a population of more than 10 million, and implemented strict control on people’s entry into and exit from Hubei Province. Outside Hubei, all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have activated the first-level response to public health emergency, and built a joint prevention and control system that covers every people. Local officials and health workers have been monitoring the outbreak continuously and made the greatest efforts to reduce the movement of people.

The second “S” is speed. We are in a race against time to save people’s lives. It took us only one week to identify the genetic sequence of the virus, so that the medical staff can use the test kit to identify the cases for early intervention. Within two weeks, we built two hospitals in Wuhan with a total capacity of 2,600 beds. They are very special and professional hospitals, particularly for these patients suffered with the novel coronavirus. Before that, we are very much shortage of the hospital beds. Right now, we have reached a goal that patients are not waiting for beds, but beds are waiting for the patients. We have achieved four “Earlys”: Early discovery; Early reporting; Early quarantine; and Early treatment. The purpose is to discover the infected persons as early as possible and quarantine them in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

The third “S” is solidarity. The battle against the virus is the people’s war. Over 20,000 healthcare workers from different parts of China gathered in Hubei Province to treat the patients. They are hailed as heroes in harm’s way. Tens of thousands of volunteers are working non-stop to help deliver supplies and assistance to the affected regions. All Chinese people follow the instructions of various levels of government, community and village leaders not to visit relatives and friends during the Lunar New Year holiday. They have also canceled their travel plans and various parties they intended to attend. Most of the Chinese people stay at home, overcome the inconvenience in purchasing daily necessities in order to reduce the probability of getting infections. The sacrifice made by the ordinary Chinese is unimaginable in many countries.

Q:The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and WHO Director-General Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the novel coronavirus outbreak poses “a very grave threat for the rest of the world”. What is your take on that? What is China doing in collaboration with the WHO and other countries to prevent this virus from spreading and protecting people from getting infections?

A: Just as what Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized, the reason why the WHO has declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a public health emergency of international concern is not that China has not done good enough, China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response. The purpose is to enable more international resources to support countries with weak public health systems to prevent and deal with the outbreak. Although the covid-19 isn’t a “pandemic”, virus respects no boundaries and infected patients have been discovered in over 20 countries. Therefore, the COVID-19 is a public enemy of mankind that requests coordination from the international community.

China has been bearing the front of the prevention and control of the COVID-19. As the responsible country, China is working all along with WHO and international community on two aspects. One is just fighting epidemic at home in order to contain the further spread to other countries. Otherwise the situation is worse today. Secondly we are working very closely with WHO by sharing information and by seeking collaboration. The SG of WHO Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus paid a visit to China, and he was received by our President Xi Jinping. Right now, the group of experts is paying a visit in China to know the detailed information of what happened in China. To date, the number of confirmed cases outside of China is less than 1% of the total. It proves that China has made contributions and suffered sacrifices to the global public health security.

But China is not fighting alone. In the battle against the COVID-19 outbreak, the international society is staying with us. Heads of more than 160 countries and international organizations have given calls or sent letters to express their condolences and support to China. Dozens of foreign governments and their citizens have reached to China their helping hands, Tanzanian people are among them. President Magufuli has sent a letter of condolence to President Xi Jinping and Professor Kabudi, Foreign Minister Tanzania has talked over the phone with H.E. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, both demonstrating that Tanzania will firmly stand by the side of China at this difficult moment. Moreover, President Magufuli has also told me that “as long as our Chinese brother needs, Tanzania can dispatch doctors to help treat and save patients in China at any time”. A number of our Tanzanian friends have joined in the praying and cheering up for China. I have being immersed in a very encouraging and touching sentences like; “Go strong China” and “Tanzania na China tuko pamoja”. We sincerely appreciate these kindnesses.

Q:In Egypt, there’s already one confirmed case of COVID-19. So Africa is no longer a continent free of the novel coronavirus. Do you think the risk of importing COVID-19 cases is increasing in Africa? How can African countries reduce such risk and better protect themselves?

A: We noticed that after the occurrence of the first confirmed case in Africa, the Egyptian Government, the African Centre for Disease Control (ACDC) and the WHO have immediately taken such measures as quarantine of the patient and identification of risks. Until now they have not found any signs of further spread the of the disease. However, the first COVID-2019 case in Africa highlights the increasing importance of investing preparedness and response to this disease in African countries. At the same time, we should not panic. According to the ACDC, further training and resources will be provided to Egypt and other 16 high risk countries for infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities, medical management of COVID-19, and risk communication and community engagement. I am happy to know from the WHO representative that Tanzania has got the ability to test, they already have a test kit.

The Chinese side appreciates the rational and objective attitude adopted by the Tanzanian Government in face of the epidemic and the timely and responsible measures it has taken. On one hand, Tanzania has taken a series of prevention and control measures against the spread of the virus, which include monitoring passengers’ body temperature at airports, asking passengers to declare their travel records, establishment of treatment centers at Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Mwanza for infectious diseases and opening of 24-hour hot-lines for people to report relevant cases. The measures have been proven to be effective. On another hand, The Government of Tanzania has followed the advice given by the WHO by not evacuating its citizens in China in haste and not adopting trade and travel restrictions against China. Moreover, I would like to take this opportunity to make three proposals. First; Since the situation in China is too serious, we have to stay alert, Second; I urge well screening and its better to advice all travellers from China to do a volume tray as isolation for 14 days. The Chinese Embassy in Tanzania will actively cooperate with the Government of Tanzania to implement those measures and continue reminding Chinese nationals in Tanzania to follow the instructions of quarantine and reporting given by relevant Tanzania authorities.

Q:There are negative impacts on both social and economic fronts due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. To be precise, how has this outbreak caused economic slowdown in China?

A: In the face this outbreak with such a wide spreading and extensive affecting scope, China’s economic and social development is inevitably affected and challenged. But these difficulties and challenges will only be periodical, temporary and controllable. The Chinese Government is doing two important things. First; we still intensify effective prevention in the epicenter which is Hubei and Wuhan. For other parts of China the government has already call upon to gradually resume work and production. The government will also support the enterprises in terms of finance and tax, who have being engaging in the fighting by producing medical materials. According to the latest data in some very economic powerful provinces like; Guangdong and Jiangsu the resumption of work and production is encouraging. We managed SARS 17 years ago and now the economy is even bigger compared to the past, so we are confident we have many measures that can overcome these difficulties. The fundamentals of China’s healthy economic development will stay unchanged and the general momentum of long-term development will remain sound in spite of the novel coronavirus outbreak, because China has the ability to minimize the economic influences by the outbreak.

The Chinese government has recently enacted various policies and measures to recover economic growth and support enterprises, such as investing special virus prevention and control funds, encouraging financial institutions to support the virus prevention and control work and utilizing the policy-based costs to help Chinese and foreign companies to go through this hard time.

Q: With the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak in China, Madam Ambassador, in your view, how politically and diplomatically complicated is this to China, due to travel bans, quarantines, closing borders, etc?

A: It is understandable that some countries like Tanzania have taken necessary and appropriate prevention measures. Even more, we oppose political manipulation of the situation by a handful of countries. But we disapprove of measures out of proportion.

Regrettably, a handful of countries have adopted extreme measures to impose total ban on the entry of Chinese nationals. Such a practice is neither friendly nor responsible. It is of no help and will produce negative effect. It will cause panic, which will eventually undermine one’s own interests.

The globalized age calls for cooperation. We hope countries will respect and follow the recommendation of WHO and its Director General. In the face of public health contingencies, countries should refrain from the beggar-thy-neighbor approach. Rather, they should adopt an objective and scientific approach to jointly respond to the challenge.

Q:What is your message to Tanzanians and of course to the world at large concerning the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak in China?

A: This coronavirus is controllable and curable, so long as there is no case in Tanzania and Tanzanians in China. Tanzanians must know more about the disease and then take necessary measures like washing your hands frequently, doing ventilation at home, avoid going to crowded areas and maintain your health diet so as to be strong. So long as you do this you don’t have to panic. Also don’t believe in rumors or spread rumors, get information from the official sources such as the government of Tanzania and the Embassy’s twitter account where we always publish press release. I would like to quote what Mr. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China said in his speech at the Munich Security Conference a few days ago, “No winter lasts forever and every spring is sure to follow.” China is doing all out to control the disease and we have already seen the light at the end of tunnel. I think with the strong leadership of our President Xi Jinping with the consecutive by our government and our people of 1.4 billion and collaboration from Tanzania and other foreign countries, we are sure that we will eventually overcome. It will not take long.

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