The COVID-19 outbreak is a major public health emergency that has spread in the fastest speed, caused the most extensive infection and is the most difficult to contain in China since the founding of the People's Republic on October 1, 1949.
The WHO declares COVID-19 "public enemy number one". Containing the epidemic at the source is of essence. Guided by the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, China is fulfilling its responsibility for the life and health of its own people and for global public health security.
Under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, the 1.4 billion Chinese people are making all-out efforts in fighting the epidemic. The government has taken the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures, many of which have far exceeded what WHO and International Health Regulations required. Through arduous efforts, the epidemic is generally under control, and the positive trend in the prevention and control work is now expanding. China's effective response and sacrifice have averted the further spread of the virus in the world. We have the full confidence, capacity and determination to not only win a full victory against the epidemic but also meet China's economic and social development goals.
Hardship reveals true friendship. Ruthless as the epidemic, we are deeply touched by the compassion shown to us from the international community. Recently, the Embassy has been inundated with heartwarming sympathies and good wishes from Nigerian brothers and sisters. We highly appreciate that the government and good people of Nigeria firmly stand by us in this difficult time. As President Muhammadu Buhari noted in his statement of solidarity on February 2, "China's efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus have been exemplary, as well as the country's collaboration with international agencies and other countries on the matter", "With all the efforts being put in, we know that it is only a matter of time before this nightmare passes." Indeed, together we shall prevail.
Foreign nationals are safe in China. According to the professional evaluation of WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros, the safest way for foreign nationals in Wuhan is to stay put and ensure effective self-protection. He has cautioned against hasty movement as it will add more uncertainties. We still suggest that countries should follow WHO recommendations and educate their nationals to ensure sound protection in accordance to local health regulations.
The Chinese government attaches great importance to the safety and well-being of foreign nationals, including foreign students. The Foreign Ministry of China has directed relevant local departments to take the protection of foreign nationals in China as a high priority and to work hard to address their difficulties. Please be assured that we will take all necessary and effective measures to protect the safety and health of Nigerian nationals in China.
We have enhanced information disclosure. Local departments have kept local foreign nationals informed in an open and transparent way via websites, WeChat, Weibo and e-mail, posting updates on the epidemic situation through public letters, releasing information on self-protection, opening 24-hour multilingual hotlines. The host provinces and municipalities of consular missions have held news briefings or video conferences to share updates on the latest development of the epidemic and answer questions. Guangdong Province compiled and circulated a Handbook on the Epidemic Prevention and Control for the consular missions.
We have worked to guarantee the life needs of foreign nationals. Ensuring the well-being of foreign nationals has been made a priority in the work of local governments and community-level bodies, who have worked hard to meet the needs of foreigner in daily life, epidemic prevention and treatment, and resolve their legitimate concerns to the best of their ability. Consulates have been provided masks, sanitizer and other preventive materials to solve their difficulties.
We have done our best to treat foreign patients. Local authorities are making their best efforts to see that foreign patients are treated in a timely manner and well taken care of. As of February 19, 29 foreign nationals in China had been diagnosed with the COVID-19. Among them, 10 were in Hubei province, there were 18 recovered and discharged cases, 2 deaths and 9 cases under treatment in isolation. No reported cases of Nigerian being diagnosed with COVID-19 in China.
We have tried our best to provide services for international students. The Chinese government cares about the life and health of foreign students just as we care for our own children. Leading local officials have either visited foreign students in person or talked to them through video links. For example, Party Secretary of Jiangxi Province visited the more than 500 international students in Nanchang University to offer his support. Many universities have launched online courses to provide diverse means of study for international students. All of them have distributed masks and other personal protective supplies to their international students and worked to ensure that they can have meals in canteens or through food delivery. Local government agencies have coordinated to complete visa and residence permit procedures for international students. Those who are confirmed to be infected with the virus are under good medical care.
In Hubei Province, there are 5400-plus international students, including 50 Nigerian students in Wuhan. All universities in the province have taken thoughtful measures. For example: they have launched 41 special hotlines to provide 24/7 counseling for international students; assigned staff to provide free food delivery and buy stuff for students staying in dorms; created WeChat groups consisting of faculty members, volunteers and international students to learn about their needs and situations; provided psychological counseling to ease loneliness, anxiety and fear; with regard to the difficulties reported, school authorities have tried to resolve problems after verifying the situations with the students concerned.
Having said that, facing such an unprecedented outbreak, it is impossible to have been perfect in our work. There are areas where we are not doing good enough. We welcome opinions and suggestions and will make improvements accordingly.
The COVID-19 comes and will go. The outbreak is just temporary, but friendship and cooperation are forever. China will always remember the sympathy and support given to us in this battle against the virus. Our heartfelt appreciation goes to all the countries, international organizations and people across the world who have stood with us in tackling the epidemic.
Dr. Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria