‘Trust China. You are safe’: Ambassador reassures SA on coronavirus

China is doing everything it can to manage and contain the coronavirus outbreak, and there is no need to panic – the virus has not spread to Africa.

This was the message from China’s ambassador to South Africa who said on Monday, in a press briefing at the Embassy in Pretoria, that China has managed the outbreak.

On Friday, the Botswana government reported its first suspected infection at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.

Four new suspected cases have been reported since then, however, the government has assured the public that these cases have not been confirmed as those of the coronavirus.

Globally, the virus is believed to have infected 20 people in Japan, 19 in Thailand, 18 in Singapore, 15 in South Korea, 12 in Australia, eight in the United States, eight in Malaysia, eight in Germany, seven in Welham, six in France, four in Canada, one in Cambodia and one in Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Lin Songtian said that, at midnight February 2, 17 205 cases had been confirmed in China.

There were 21 558 suspected new infections and 361 deaths.

“475 infected patients have recovered and have been cured, and left the hospital to go home,” he said.

“The source of the virus remains undiscovered; the nature and the risk of mutation are both unclear.”

He added that China has enough capacity to manage the outbreak and had increased its production of masks in an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading.

A worker displays a face mask before packing it inside a factory on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, February 3, 2020. Picture: Amit Dave/Reuters

“The capacity production of masks increased to 20 million. We hope it increases to 180 million by the end of February,” he said.

Songtian also put to rest concerns around the safety of visitors in China, including those from South Africa.

“All foreigners in China are friends of China, they are our visitors, they are not our enemies.

“We have a designated hospital for all the foreigners. Trust China, you are safe,” he said.

The efforts of South African scientists, who are working with China to find a vaccination for the disease, have also been hailed.

“This is a very serious epidemic and deadly virus posing a threat of the lives of humankind globally,” Songtian said.

“China is the main engine to drive the world economic development. If the engine if the economy of China collapses, everyone will pay the price,” he added.


Meanwhile, as local fears were being allayed in Pretoria, China accused the United States on Monday of whipping up panic with travel restrictions and evacuations as Chinese stocks plunged on the first day back from the extended Lunar New Year holiday.

The World Health Organization last week declared the flu-like virus a global emergency and it has since spread to 23 other countries and regions, with the first death outside of China reported on Sunday – that of a 44-year-old Chinese man who died in the Philippines after travelling from Wuhan.

Wuhan and some other cities remain in virtual lockdown with travel severely restricted, and China is facing increasing international isolation.

China has implemented a national quarantine programme, suspended public transportation and has closed national facilities.

China accused the United States of spreading fear by pulling its nationals out and restricting travel instead of offering significant aid.

Relations between the two sides had just begun to recover after a long and bruising trade war. – Additional reporting by Reuters


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