China accuses US of spreading global ‘panic’ over coronavirus
By: K J M Varma
Beijing, Feb 3 : China on Monday accused the US of spreading “panic” through its actions like travel bans and evacuation of diplomats and said there was no “substantial help” from Washington to contain the virus that has killed 361 people and infected 17,205 others in the country.
The deadly virus – first emerged in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province – has spread to 25 countries, including India, the US and the UK.
Joining a growing list of nations to impose travel restrictions, the US has announced a 14-day travel ban on all visitors from China, regardless of their nationality. The US citizens arriving from China’s virus-hit Hubei province will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine on arrival, while those travelling to other parts of China will face screening and monitoring.
A CNN report said the mandatory quarantine is the first time the US has issued such an order in 50 years.
“What the US has done could create and spread panic,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said addressing the first online media briefing.
“The US government has not provided any substantive help to the Chinese side yet. On the contrary, it was the first to withdraw its consulate staff from Wuhan, the first to suggest the partial withdrawal of embassy staff, the first to announce a ban on entry by Chinese citizens after the WHO made it clear that it doesn’t recommend or even opposes travel and trade restrictions against China,” she said.
The ministry has cancelled direct press conferences in view of the virus and started holding online briefings through Chinese social media messaging APP WeChat.
Most of the international airlines including the Indian flight services to China have been cancelled in view of the deadly virus.
Besides cancelling e-visa facility for Chinese, India’s Health Ministry asked Indians to refrain from travelling to China. “In case of travel, on return from China they could be quarantined. Anyone with travel history in China since 15th January and from now on could be quarantined, it said.
Reacting to measures taken by the US, Hua said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated while issuing declaration of the virus as a public health emergency of international concern that it is to help countries that have weaker health systems and are ill-prepared.
WHO doesn’t approve of and even reject travel and trade bans on China and stated repeatedly that China has taken a firm and strong actions, Hua said.
“Acting with a high sense of responsibility to people’s health, the Chinese government has taken the most comprehensive and strict prevention and control measures after the outbreak of the epidemic, many of which have far exceeded what International Health Regulations required,” she said answering questions on US restrictions and comments by its officials.
“There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” she said.
“Most countries appreciate and support China’s efforts to fight against the novel coronavirus, and we understand and respect them when they adopt or enhance quarantine measures at border entry. But in the meantime, some countries, the US in particular, have inappropriately overreacted, which certainly runs counter to WHO advice,” she said.
She said acting with openness, transparency and a high sense of responsibility, China shared timely updates and relevant data with the international community including the US.
“A friend in need is a friend indeed. Many countries have offered China support in various means. In sharp contrast, certain US officials’ words and actions are neither factual nor appropriate. Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the US rushed to go in the opposite way. Certainly, not a gesture of goodwill,” she said.
“Adversity makes one stronger just as polishing makes jade finer. The Chinese nation is known for its perseverance and resilience,” Hua said, adding that China will win the battle against the virus under the resolute leadership of the ruling Communist Party of China and the strong support from the international community.
She also said China is assisting countries who wants to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan.
“For countries wishing to evacuate their citizens out of Wuhan, we make arrangements and provide assistance to them following international customary practices and our epidemic control measures. Relevant countries have expressed thanks to us,” she said.
India has airlifted 654 people including seven Maldivian nationals.