Sunday, April 18, 2021

Coronavirus: Working together towards a health silk road, by Zhou Pingjian


tiamin rice

The COVID-19 outbreak poses both a grave threat to the life and health of the Chinese people and a formidable challenge to global public health security. Under the leadership and personal command of President Xi Jinping, China has given full play to the advantages of its system and mobilised national resources with concerted efforts to fight the people’s war against the epidemic. We have done more than what we have been asked to do by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and under the International Health Regulations. Such efforts have resulted in a growing positive momentum in the control of the epidemic across the country.

Standing at the forefront of the fight, China has fulfilled its responsibility for global public health, as well as for its people. It has taken the most decisive and thorough measures to contain the spread of the virus beyond its borders. Chinese medical workers and researchers have raced against time to improve diagnostic and therapeutic solutions in an effort to raise the rate of cure and lower the case fatality rate. With its quick response, China has bought precious time for the international community to enhance preparedness; with its aggressive response, China has served as a strong line of defence against the spread of the epidemic. China has made huge sacrifice to slow down the spread of the disease to other parts of the world.

The heroic acts of the Chinese people in fighting the epidemic have won admiration and support from the international community. As President Muhammadu Buhari noted in his statement of solidarity on February 2, “China’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus have been exemplary, as well as the country’s collaboration with international agencies and other countries on the matter.” The president of the 74th UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad Bande, Nigeria’s permanent representative to the UN, also commended China’s exemplary leadership and transparency in fighting the epidemic.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres described China’s sacrifice in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus as a great contribution to all mankind. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that China’s forceful actions have limited the spread of the virus, both domestically and beyond its borders. China is protecting not only its people, but also the rest of the world.

China is by no means alone in its fight against the epidemic. The international community has given us much valuable support. President Xi Jinping conducted phone conversations at the instance of leaders from more than 10 countries and held meetings with the prime minister of Cambodia, president of Mongolia, and WHO director-general during their special visits to China.

Leaders of over 170 countries and heads of more than 40 international and regional organisations have sent messages of sympathy and support to China. The United Nations, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, African Union, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and the G77 have issued statements specifically expressing their confidence in and support for China.

Many countries, international organisations and NGOs have also lent helping hands by donating medical supplies to China, which have played an important role in battling the epidemic. We are touched in particular to see some African countries offering us funds or in-kind assistance, despite their own limited resources.

“Hold a true friend with both hands.” We highly appreciate that the government and good people of Nigeria firmly stands by us in this difficult time. We will always remember the sympathy and support given to us in this battle against COVID-19.

Virus respects no borders. It does not distinguish races or ethnicities. It has no regard for a country’s GDP or level of development. In the age of globalisation, the future of all countries is closely intertwined. Society has become a community with a shared future, in which our interests are closely tied together. In the face of the outbreak, no country can stay immune. In the face of global challenges like public health security, should we stand closely together, or abandon our neighbours? Should we fight side-by-side, or adopt a “wait-and-see” attitude? Should we offer timely support, or add insult to injury? The answers are self-evident. As Dr. Tedros has put it, “The virus has attacked us and humanity must join hands to fight it; it is a threat to all of us and we must unite as one.”

Most unfortunately, however, one U.S. media with ulterior motives falsely claims that the novel coronavirus originated in China and demands a formal apology for the outbreak. A certain American politician deliberately calls the novel coronavirus, “the Wuhan coronavirus”, in total disrespect of the guidelines of WHO. Nothing could be further from the truth. This stigmatisation means nothing but only reveals their total arrogance, prejudice and ignorance towards China. It is preposterous and ridiculous.

First, the defeat of this virus is everyone’s battle and every patient that came down with it, wherever he or she is, is a victim. What is the point in arguing that someone should apologise for this? We see people around the world joining hands to fight off the epidemic, and the WHO has repeatedly said that stigmatisation is more dangerous than the virus itself. Why are certain people and media still promoting such an absurd logic? What are they up to?

Second, there is simply no basis and no reason to push China for an apology. It is yet undetermined where the virus originated from. Wherever its origin may be, China and all the other affected countries are victims faced with the challenge of containing its spread. The H1N1 flu that broke out in the U.S. in 2009 spread to 214 countries and regions, killing at least 18,449 people that year alone. I don’t remember anyone asking the U.S. to apologise.

Third, in its efforts to fight off the epidemic, China has conducted itself as a responsible country. China’s signature strength, efficiency and speed in this fight have been widely acclaimed. To protect the health and safety of people across the world, the Chinese people have made huge sacrifices and major contributions. The international community commended China for its effective and extraordinary response and enormous sacrifice. Dr. Tedros noted that China’s forceful actions have limited the spread of the virus, both domestically and beyond its borders, thus setting a new standard for the global efforts against the epidemic.

The COVID-19 is a common challenge facing all of mankind. To safeguard global public health, countries must join hands and stand shoulder to shoulder inthe fight against the scourge. If we come to each other’s aid in this time of difficulty and fight for our shared future, we can build an “impregnable fortress” and win the battle against the virus.

Health care initiative is one of the Eight Major Initiatives of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2018. African countries are now facing high risks of imported COVID-19 cases and two confirmed cases have been reported in Nigeria. China has provided testing reagents to the African Union (AU), shared diagnostic and therapeutic solutions with many African countries, including Nigeria. The Red Cross Society of China and many Chinese enterprises delivered reagents to African countries. While shoring up our own line of defence, we stand ready to strengthen solidarity and cooperation with African countries, support and help them to the best of our capabilities, and jointly contribute to safeguarding global public health security.

As President Xi points out, “We should step up efforts in deepening medical and health cooperation, and enhancing mutually beneficial cooperation in the alert on infectious diseases, disease control and prevention, medical assistance, traditional medicines and other areas, so as to jointly build a health Silk Road.”

Mr Pingjian is the ambassador of China to Nigeria.

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