|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on March 16, 2020|
According to the latest figures from the NHC, March 15 saw 838 patients cured and discharged from hospital in China's mainland, bringing the tally to 67,749.
Q: On March 13, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and President Francesco Rocca of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies held a press conference at the headquarters of the Italian Red Cross Association in Rome to welcome a team of Chinese medical experts. Can you tell us more about their work in Italy?
A: To help Italy cope with the COVID-19, the Chinese government decided to dispatch an expert team to Italy. The nine-member medical team, along with medical supplies, arrived in Rome from Shanghai on March 12. The Chinese side already issued a press release on that.
The Chinese medical team has been working non-stop after they arrived. They have shared experiences with the Italian Ministry of Health, the Red Cross, the Advanced Institute of Health and the National Hospital for Infectious Diseases of Rome on treatment, medication, and hospital-acquired infection control. They also exchanged views with the Italian side on raising awareness of self-protection of the public and medical staff and clarifying levels of protection for medical institutions. The Chinese medical team has just begun work for a few days, but their contributions have already been warmly welcomed and highly commended.
The Chinese team also brought along the support of the Chinese government to its citizens living in Italy. Amid their tight schedules, they arranged online consulting sessions with Chinese nationals living and working in Italy including students, introducing the symptoms and features of the COVID-19 and sharing prevention tips and treatment measures. The live streaming video had nearly 700,000 views, and related videos have been reposted by a number of major websites. They also made visits to the Chinese patients who recovered after receiving treatment from the Italian side. They will continue to share their experiences with Chinese nationals there and head north to work in the most affected region in Italy.
Q: Global Times published earlier on Friday an opinion editorial that called for international community to condemn the Swedish response to the coronavirus. What is the foreign ministry's comment on how Sweden is handling the coronavirus? Does the foreign ministry support its call for condemnation?
A: I haven't read the editorial you talked about.
As you may know, we usually don't make comments on the opinions of scholars, experts, think-tanks and media.
With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the world, the international community should enhance coordination and cooperation, combat the pandemic hand in hand and safeguard global public health security.
Q: Multiple local governments in China have announced stricter control measures for international arrivals recently. Are these measures primarily aimed at returning Chinese nationals or foreigners? Could you give us some idea of how many Chinese nationals are returning to China in recent days compared to foreigners?
A: Recently WHO has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Against this backdrop, importation of cases from overseas has become a major risk for many localities in China.
In light of local needs for epidemic response and the spread outside China, sub-national authorities have taken some inspection, quarantine, prevention and control measures on international arrivals in accordance with laws and regulations. By doing so, they are not just cementing the epidemic response at home, but also effectively cutting cross-border transmission of the virus. They are being responsible for the safety and health of both Chinese and foreign nationals.
These measures apply equally to Chinese and foreign citizens. The legitimate concerns of those affected will be fully accommodated and they will get necessary service and assistance.
As the situation evolves, such measures will be adjusted promptly to keep up with the changing conditions.
As to the specifics you asked for, like the number of travelers and the proportion, I don't have them at the moment.
Q: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned continued US sanctions which have severely hampered Iran's fight against COVID-19, calling them a collective punishment of the Iranian people. Pointing out that these sanctions have caused about $200 billion direct damages to the Iranian economy in less than two years, he called on the international community to reject illegal sanctions by the US and support Iran's fight against the epidemic. Do you have any response?
A: The Iranian government and people are at a crucial juncture in their fight against the epidemic. Continued unilateral sanctions at this particular time will only make things worse, which apparently breach international law, basic norms governing international relations and humanitarianism. They also severely impact Iran's epidemic response and the delivery of humanitarian aid by the UN and other organizations. We urge the relevant country to immediately lift such sanctions on Iran, stop getting in the way of Iran's efforts against the epidemic and avoid further harm to Iran's economy and people's livelihood.
China is closely following the development of the epidemic in Iran and offering assistance to the best of its capability. Earlier on, China has provided test kits and other medical supplies and dispatched an expert team to Iran. We will continue to do our utmost to help them in light of their needs. We also call on the international community to strengthen cooperation with Iran and jointly safeguard regional and global public health security.
Q: Canadian media reported recently that Michael Kovrig was allowed to call his father. Can you confirm this and provide any updates on the situation of Kovrig and Michael Spavor? Are any measures being taken to protect them from the coronavirus?
A: China has repeatedly stated its position on the cases involving Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, both Canadian nationals. Kovrig and Spavor are suspected of crimes endangering China's national security. Their cases are being lawfully handled by competent authorities, and their legitimate rights are fully guaranteed. Officials of the Canadian embassy paid several visits to them.
After the COVID-19 outbreak, while overcoming consequent inconvenience and difficulties, the Chinese competent authorities took timely measures to ensure the health and security of all detainees including Kovrig and Spavor. After knowing that Kovrig's father was seriously ill, in a humanitarian spirit and on a lawful basis, the Chinese authorities made ad hoc arrangements for Kovrig to talk over the phone with his father. Both Kovrig and Spavor thanked our authorities for the above-mentioned arrangements.
Q: Nobel-prize winning Peruvian writer Mario Llosa wrote in a commentary in El País last week that coronavirus outbreak originated in China, accusing the Chinese government of covering up the epidemic without proper handling. Chinese embassy in Peru said that if Mr. Llosa isn't contributing to the fight against the virus, he should at least not be spreading irresponsible views. Does the foreign ministry agree with how the Chinese embassy is trying to silence Mr. Llosa?
A: Mr. Llosa's remarks are extremely irresponsible. China firmly opposes them. Our embassy in Peru has made clear this position. As I understand, the Chinese embassy in Peru has never tried to silence Mr. Mario Llosa.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has acted in an open, transparent and responsible manner in providing timely updates to WHO and relevant countries and regions, sharing with them the genome sequence of the virus, and conducting medical and health cooperation with countries including Peru and Spain to exchange experience in treatment. China's efforts bought precious time for the world and contributed to the global response to the pandemic. This is the fair conclusion drawn by the international community.
As to the origin of the virus, like we stressed many times, it is a matter of science which requires scientific and professional assessment, and we should wait for findings of the science community. Considering all this, jumping to conclusions won't help any country and will only cause panic and discrimination.
We hope Mr. Llosa will discard his prejudice and look at the issue in an all-round, correct manner and view China objectively and fairly, doing what is constructive to international efforts against COVID-19.