Harare (New Ziana) – China on Friday commended Zimbabwe for not impulsively suspending travel between the two countries as a preventative measure against the deadly COVID-19 which has hit the Asian country.
Several African Airlines have temporarily suspended flights to and from China in light of the outbreak, while countries such as Mozambique have gone a step further by suspending visas on arrival for Chinese citizens and forbidding its citizens from travelling there.
So far, there are no confirmed cases in Africa of COVID-19, which has since been declared a global health emergency.
Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Guo Shaochun said strong preventative measures had been put in place to counter the spread of COVID-19 to Zimbabwe and other countries.
He said the World Health Organisation (WHO) had expressed confidence that China had taken firm action to limit the spread of COVID-19.
As such, there was need for the global community to stay calm instead of overreacting by placing restrictive measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade.
“A few countries have taken such excessive steps as suspending flights. Such travel bans by a few countries are deliberate moves to mislead the international community about the severity of the challenge and damage China’s reputation.
“In this regard, I must commend the professionalism of the Zimbabwean government, it has conducted an informed and scientific assessment of the situation, acted on the advice of the WHO and put in place reasonable and effective measures to keep out the virus,” he said.
“Thanks to the efforts of the Chinese government and the embassy, the number of trips from China to Zimbabwe have been kept at a minimum necessary and no suspected cases have been identified. We hope to keep such a good momentum through our joint efforts.”
Guo said the ongoing efforts to prevent the virus from spreading to Zimbabwe included requesting Chinese nationals coming to Zimbabwe to cooperate with monitoring and quarantine measures adopted by the Zimbabwean government and advising Chinese nationals who had returned to China for holiday especially to the most affected regions to hold off coming back to Zimbabwe until the situation eases.
He said a Chinese medical team in Zimbabwe had also joined Ministry of Health and Child Care rapid response team to prepare for possible cases.
“These measures have proved sufficient and are more than enough now that China has taken the initiative to suspend all unnecessary travels abroad,” he said.
Guo said only about 20 000 Chinese nationals visit Zimbabwe annually and because there are no direct flights between the two countries, the risk of the virus spreading to Zimbabwe was low.
“The actual number of people to people exchange is much lower than many believe….only about 20 000 and I believe that a considerable part of them are engineers and managers who come here for advancing post disaster reconstruction and projects financed by Chinese grants like the new parliament building and the pharmaceutical warehouse. With the Chinese government discouraging all unnecessary travels, even this number now becomes impossible, we hope countries will make reasonable, calm and science based judgements and responses,” he said.
Guo said the Chinese government was also closely monitoring Zimbabwean and other foreign nationals based in China and so far no case had been reported.
“China has a large community of foreign nationals and their safety is as important to us as the Chinese citizens,” he said.
“There has been no change of China’s visa policy towards Zimbabweans who want to travel to China. I would like to say that recently because of the outbreak of Coronavirus we have seen a reduced number of visa applications, it is easy to understand why because no one wants to take a risk but I am sure this is just a temporary situation.”
Early this week, the Zimbabwe government announced that it had put in place tight COVID-19 monitoring systems and state of the art testing, quarantine and treatment facilities in case the disease spreads to the country.
According to the World Health Organisation, in confirmed cases in humans, common symptoms of COVID-19 have been serious respiratory difficulties with fever, coughing and shortness of breath.
Based on current clinical experience, the virus – which originated from China and has killed over 1000 people – generally presents as pneumonia.