Keeping Track of the Coronavirus fight

Asia and Oceania Coronavirus Watch

By the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe

By the end of Monday, there had been 72,436 confirmed cases; 6,242 were suspected of being infected with the virus and 1,770 deaths.

A total of 12,552 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery.

Monday saw 1,886 new confirmed cases; 98 deaths (93 were in Hubei Province, three in Henan, and one in Hebei and Hunan respectively), 1,432 new suspected cases and 1,701 people were discharged from hospital after recovery. 

560,901 close contacts had been traced, among which, 27,908 were discharged from medical observation Monday, with 141,552 others still under medical observation.

By the end of Sunday, 60 confirmed cases including one death had been reported in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), 10 confirmed cases in the Macao SAR, and 22 in Taiwan.

According to the World Health Organisation’s situation report on 17 February, in the previous 24 hours, no new country reported cases of COVID-19. Globally, there had been 71,429 confirmed (2,162 new) cases, including 794 confirmed (111 new) cases in 25 countries and three deaths outside China.

China’s daily new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus pneumonia outside Hubei, the epicenter province of the outbreak, have dropped for 14 consecutive days, according to the National Health Commission Tuesday.

A total of 79 new confirmed cases were reported on Monday outside Hubei, a 14th consecutive day drop since February 3 showed figures released by the commission. China has allocated the third batch of disaster relief materials to Hubei Province to support the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak, said the Ministry of Emergency Management.

Some 50,000 cotton quilts and 10,000 folding beds were allocated Monday to the province, the center of the outbreak, to help with people relocation and medical observation.

So far, China has allocated a total of 198,000 pieces of relief materials, including cotton-padded overcoats, quilts and folding beds to Hubei to support the fight against the epidemic.

World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday paid tribute to nurses working on the frontline to stop the COVID-19 outbreak, saying that this year more than ever the world must show solidarity with them.

Retweeting a Xinhua video posted earlier on Monday, the Who chief said that health workers, including nurses, are bearing the biggest burden in the COVID-19 outbreak.

The video, produced and posted by Xinhua on twitter, told a story on how six nurses at an isolation points in China’s Anhui Province care for two children whose parents were infected with novel coronavirus.

“This touching video shows the efforts and love nurses are investing in their jobs and patients to save lives. This year more than ever we must show our solidarity and support nurses and midwives,” Tedros said.

The World Health Assembly has designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

A latest report by the Who said that nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services, and the world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.

Earlier this month when reporting to the 146th Meeting of the Executive Board of Who, Tedros said that health workers are vital to achieving universal health coverage, especially nurses and midwives.

“The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife gives us a wonderful opportunity to highlight the incredible role nurses and midwives play, and to draw attention to the shortfall of 9 million nurses and midwives the world is facing between now and 2030,” he said.

“We’re calling on all countries to invest in nurses and midwives as part of their commitment to universal health coverage,” he added.

The World Health Organisation on Monday urged all to show solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, and avoid any stigma or profiling of those affected by the disease.

Answering questions at a daily briefing on whether cruise ships should be “steered clear” following the case of the Diamond Princess ship, Michael Ryan, executive director of the Who Health Emergencies Program, said that “it’s impossible to reduce the risk of anything to zero”.

He said that outside China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, “this epidemic is affecting a very tiny, tiny, tiny proportion of people”.

Ryan urged the public to be “extremely measured” at the Who’s actions, saying that “everything we do needs to be based on public health and evidence”.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was carrying more than 3,700 passengers and crew, has been kept in a two-week quarantine period off the Yokohama Port near Tokyo, after an 80-year-old passenger on board from Hong Kong was found infected with COVID-19. So far, the total number of confirmed infections on the cruise ship has risen to 454.

“People say we should steer clear of airports, steer clear of ethnic groups and steer clear of other things, but we have to be really careful here,” said Ryan.

“We need an approach to manage risk, which allows us to continue to operate as a society while minimising the risk we know about,” he added.

The Who expert believed that though some specific risks were associated with a small number of cruise ships, the risk has since waned.

“We need to be realistic about what has happened … separate the past from where we are now, what’s the evidence now and where do we go from here,” he said.

“There are a lot of people around the world who have suffered from stigma and profiling. Maybe we should be concerned about that, and ensure that people around the world show solidarity with those affected and don’t extend risk beyond what’s reasonable,” said Ryan.

“We need to avoid stigma at all cost.”

Also at the briefing, Who Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that measures taken against COVID-19 should be proportional to the situation based on public health, science and evidence.

“Blanket measures may not help,” he said.

A joint expert team consisting of experts from China and the World Health Organisation Monday began field inspections on the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak, a Chinese health official said Monday.

The expert team is scheduled to go to Beijing, Guangdong Province and Sichuan Province to conduct inspections, said Mi Feng, spokesperson for the National Health Commission (NHC), at a press conference.

A symposium was held by the NHC Sunday, which was attended by nearly 80 people, including joint expert team members and representatives from the State Council’s joint prevention and control mechanism, Mi said.

At the symposium, NHC deputy director Li Bin briefed attendees on nationwide prevention and control measures, vowed to work with the international community to address the challenge of the epidemic and welcomed suggestions from the expert team, according to Mi.

Representatives from State Council ministries and administrations introduced their prevention and control work. The attendees talked with Hubei, the virus-hit province, during a teleconference, and discussed the epidemic situation, control and prevention measures in communities and rural areas, wildlife management and drug and vaccine development.

The joint expert team acknowledged China’s prevention and control measures, as well as the dedication of Chinese medical workers, Mi said.

During its field trip in Beijing Monday, the joint expert team visited the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing Ditan Hospital and the Anhuali Community in Chaoyang District, and conducted technical exchanges with related officials and experts. The team members will depart for Guangdong Province and Sichuan Province on Tuesday.

China has announced a plan to honor medical workers and other personnel who died fighting the novel coronavirus epidemic as martyrs.

According to a circular jointly issued by the Ministry of Veterans Affairs and the Political Work Department of the Central Military Commission, the plan covers the deceased who had direct contact with suspected or confirmed cases and were infected with the virus when performing their duties including diagnosis, treatment, nursing, nosocomial infection control, specimen collection, pathogen detection and patient transfer, among others.

Other people who sacrificed their lives could also be recognised as martyrs if certain criteria are met, according to the circular. The circular also stressed comforting and compensating the families of martyrs.

The following is Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang’s Daily Briefing Online on February 17, 2020 on COVID-19:

Q: Could you talk about the background and considerations for State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s attendance at the ASEAN-China Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the novel coronavirus?

A: As close neighbors linked by mountains and rivers, China and ASEAN countries share the tradition of supporting each other through thick and thin. Back in 2003, the Special ASEAN-China Leaders Meeting on SARS was held in response to the outbreak. Since the COVID-19 epidemic broke out, China and ASEAN countries have been in close communication and collaboration. That the two sides have decided to hold a special foreign ministers’ meeting within such a short period of time demonstrates our will and determination to overcome difficulties with concerted efforts.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will talk about China’s strong measures on countering the epidemic and exchange in-depth views on collaboration with ASEAN counterparts to advance joint prevention and control, maintain normal economic and social exchange, and explore launching a permanent mechanism on public health cooperation. By doing so, we will safeguard the health and safety of people in regional countries and contribute to global public health.

There will also be a China-ASEAN medical experts’ meeting to be held in parallel with the foreign ministers’ meeting.

Q: Pakistan’s National Assembly has passed a resolution supporting China in its battle against the new coronavirus outbreak. It also appreciated China’s effective measures under the leadership of President Xi Jinping to deal with the situation. What’s your comment?

A: China highly commends Pakistan for passing the resolution. China and Pakistan are close neighbours with a fine tradition of mutual assistance. This resolution once again fully demonstrates how the Chinese and Pakistani people share weal and woe, and once again proves that China and Pakistan are a community with a shared future. We stand together in times of difficulty and render mutual assistance to each other. We are deeply grateful for Pakistan’s trust and confidence in us.

We are ready to strengthen cooperation with the international community including Pakistan to jointly tackle the epidemic and promote global public health. We also stand ready to strengthen communication and coordination with Pakistan in a highly responsible manner to safeguard the health and safety of Pakistanis in China.

Q: ASEAN issued a chairman’s statement on February 15 expressing support for China’s efforts against the NCP (COVID-19). I wonder if you have any comment?

A: China noted that in the chairman’s statement ASEAN countries expressed support for the Chinese government and people in their tremendous endeavors to counter the outbreak of COVID-19, and affirmed their consistent policies of maintaining their economies and borders open.

China and ASEAN countries have the tradition of mutual assistance in times of adversity. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the two sides have been in close communication and cooperation. On February 20, the two sides will hold the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to exchange in-depth views on jointly fighting against the epidemic to safeguard regional health security.

Q: Since the epidemic broke out, overseas Chinese have been actively providing support to China. Some say this is the result of mobilization efforts of the Chinese government. What do you say to this?

A: It is a noble Chinese tradition to always extend a helping hand to those in need. For people with Chinese roots, even if they are living at the other end of the world, their hearts are with the motherland.

Many overseas Chinese, whether with Chinese or foreign citizenship, have been contacting our embassies and consulates to express care and support. With their efforts, assistance in various means have poured in from over 200 countries and regions to help fight the virus.

One day before passing away, a 98-year-old Chinese who lived a frugal life donated 100 US dollars to Wuhan. We saw another working up a sweat in a freezing temperature organising a fund-raising event. Several newly-graduates, when told donors’ names are needed to clear customs, wrote down the words: daughters and sons of the Chinese nation. At fundraisers on campus, one student after another donated their gift money to help the motherland.

So many have stated the same readiness to do their utmost to help. We are deeply moved by their genuine and heartfelt compassion, and commend and appreciate their selfless support and generous assistance.

Adversity reveals a nation’s cohesion and fighting spirit like nothing else. We have every confidence that with the strong leadership of the Chinese government, the solidarity of the Chinese people, the joint efforts of all Chinese decedents, and the understanding and support of the international community, we will prevail over the epidemic at an early date.

Q: Do you think this epidemic will affect China’s trade, cooperation projects and cultural exchange with countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)? If so, what have you done to counter these impacts?

A: The outbreak has indeed posed a challenge to China’s economy and foreign exchange. But it is only temporary. The Chinese economy has great resilience, potential and vitality. We have the confidence and capacity to defeat the virus.

We appreciate and laud the political and material assistance from BRI partners after the epidemic broke out. We will continue to work with them for high-quality BRI cooperation while jointly overcoming difficulties on the way ahead.

Q: There have been more confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Japan. An expert panel there believes that the country is in the early stage of an outbreak and it is becoming more difficult to control its spread. The Japanese government made it clear that the epidemic has reached a new stage and it will adjust approach and strengthen prevention and control measures. How do you comment on the spread of the disease in Japan? Will China step up cooperation with Japan? Are you prepared to offer support or assistance?

A: China is closely following the developments in Japan, and we completely relate to what they are going through.

Virus knows no border, but the worst of times reveals the best in people. Stronger international cooperation, especially between neighbors, is needed to jointly tackle this challenge. The Japanese government and people from all walks of life have offered sincere support and assistance to China. We will never forget this and is deeply grateful. The situation in China is still severe. While making strenuous efforts to counter the epidemic at home, we stand ready to share further information and experience with Japan and assist it to the best of our capabilities as the need arises. In fact, specific arrangements are already being made in this regard.

We will remain in close communication and coordination with Japan and strengthen cooperation in epidemic control to jointly protect lives and health of our peoples and uphold regional and global public health security.