China’s UN envoy asks for international solidarity in coronavirus battle

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China’s top envoy to the United Nations has called on the international community to display solidarity with his country and to guard against overreacting to the spread of the coronavirus.

Ambassador Zhang Jun briefed reporters just as the United States State Department was preparing to announce a travel advisory that citizens should not travel to China given the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) determination that the epidemic constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

It’s a level 4 Do Not Travel alert issued by the United States Government.

While the epidemic has spread to 20 countries, the vast majority of cases remain in China where all of the 213 deaths have occurred.

Jun says tackling and combatting the coronavirus is the most urgent task for the Chinese government.

“Tackling or combatting the coronavirus is currently the most important and most urgent task for the Chinese Government. The outbreak of the coronavirus constitutes a threat to the life and health, security of the Chinese people. President Xi and the Chinese government have always put people’s lives, people’s health and security in the first place. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, we have taken very prompt, very decisive and very strong actions in trying to treat the affected people and especially trying hard to prevent the spreading of the virus.”

He said his country had adopted a transparent, open and responsible attitude towards the spread; moves that failed to prevent the WHO determination that the virus is an extraordinary event that placed other countries at risk and required a coordinated international response.

“Frankly speaking, we are also making our assessment of that new development. What I can say here is that we are still at a very critical stage in fighting the coronavirus. International solidarity is extremely important and for that purposes, all countries should behave in an appropriate and responsible manner.”

The US on Thursday also confirmed its first case of human-to human transmission, joining Germany, Japan, Vietnam and Thailand that have also reported such cases. Ambassador Jun urged countries not to overreact, warning that such actions could be counterproductive.

“We do hope that we cooperate in joining hands with each other in coping with this epidemic and we do behave in a responsible manner and avoiding overreactions which may result in spillover negative effects; that’s also something nobody wants to see in the world.”

The Ambassador was pressed on a recent Human Rights Watch report that raised concerns over local censorship relating to information on the spread of the virus and the forced quarantining of 50 million people in an effort to limit transmission. Jun says such comments are against human conscience and should be condemned.

“What’s crystal clear is that at this moment; the most fundamental right of those who are faced with the infection of this new disease, that’s their fundamental right. And that’s why we need to do urgently. I have heard some irresponsible, biased comments on the current situation and I do think those comments are against the human conscience and I do think those comments should be condemned.”

The WHO also indicated that there was no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade, a message the Chinese Ambassador also emphasised.

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