THE Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe is encouraging caution and the minimisation of travel to urgent business between the Asian nation and locals despite the rate of new Covid-19 (coronavirus) infections taking a dip.
Chinese deputy ambassador Zhao Baogang said the decrease in new infections over the last few days was an indication that the virus was gradually getting under control, although there was a need for vigilance until it is eliminated.
By Tuesday, the confirmed cases had reached 74 185, with 2 004 people having died since the outbreak in late December.Despite the reduction of new infections, the Chinese authorities expect the total number of infections to eventually reach 90 000.
“China is doing everything possible to contain the disease and we are happy that the number of new infections is going down. We are also happy that the bilateral co-operation and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries is continuing. We are also confident that the economy will not be affected too much by the virus,” Baogang said.
“There is still need for caution, and that is why we are asking Zimbabweans who are in China to remain there. They should self-quarantine to make sure that they remain safe. We are also encouraging Chinese nationals to stay in China, unless there is urgent business. In that case, they should self-quarantine for two weeks and get tested before travelling.
“When they reach Zimbabwe, they should go through the documentation and screening process before quarantining themselves for an additional two weeks.”
In a statement last week, MDC secretary for health Dr Henry Madzorera implored the government to stop all movement of people from China to Zimbabwe and vice-versa.
Madzorera also called on government to ensure institutionalised quarantine of all people travelling from China.“To that end we implore the government: To stop all movement of people from China to Zimbabwe. It does not matter what kind or quantum of investment they may purport to be bringing, let them stay in China till the epidemic is over,” Madzorera said.
Madzorera said the denialist attitude will cost Zimbabwe, at a time the country’s health systems are in critical condition.Zhao, however, said it was important to maintain people-to-people relations and ensure bilateral relations continue while exercising extreme caution, to ensure the virus does not spread.
“Overall, most nations have not reacted. We have a few countries like the USA which have overreacted. In Zimbabwe we have had the MDC saying that Chinese should not be allowed to come. I think it’s a bad proposal. We should continue working together to ensure everyone is safe,” Zhao said.
“We are very grateful for the support that Zimbabwe has been giving and, as you know, Zimbabwe has introduced measures at the airport for those arriving from China and other affected areas, we appreciate that during this time we can maintain people-to-people exchange. The bilateral cooperation still continues and that is the case with many other countries.”
Zhao said China was concerned with the death toll, which has now topped 2 000, but said it was important to consider that China has a population of 1,4 billion people while Wuhan, the epicentre of the disease, has a population of 11 million.
Zhao said most Zimbabwean students in China were staying indoors as a precaution.According to China’s Ministry of Emergency Management, the country has allocated the third batch of disaster relief materials to Hubei province to support the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
So far, China has allocated a total of 198 000 pieces of relief material, including cotton-padded overcoats, quilts and folding beds to Hubei to support the fight against the epidemic.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday urged people to show solidarity and avoid any stigma or profiling of those affected by the disease.Responding to questions at a daily briefing on whether cruise ships should be “steered clear” following the case of the Diamond Princess ship, WHO Health Emergencies Programme executive director Michael Ryan, said: “It is impossible to reduce the risk of anything to zero.”
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, carrying more than 3 700 passengers and crew, has been kept in a two-week quarantine 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.