In the picture H.E. Dr. Xu Hong, Ambassador of China. Photography by Naldo Peverelli.
By Roy Lie Atjam.
The Hague, 26 February 2020, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in the Netherlands, H.E. Dr. Xu Hong held a press briefing on the Coronavirus outbreak at Crowne Plaza Hotel. This was done in collaboration with Diplomat Magazine, a magazine serving the Diplomatic community in the BENELUX. Many of Ambassador Xu Hong’s colleagues, dignitaries, media personalities and others attended the press conference.
Mr. Jochum Haakma, President of the Netherlands China Business Council also addressed the audience. Mr. Haakma stressed that with the slow shipments of merchandise from China and with just a two weeks supply for businesses as Cool Blue, Blokker and many others, these entities will no doubt begin to experience the negative effects very soon. Dr. Xu Hong is confident that the current efforts of the People’s Republic of China along with the support of the international community, the fight against COVID-19 will be a success.
The briefing was followed by a Q&A session and a networking reception.H.E. Dr. Xu Hong, delivered the following remarks:
I’m standing here with a heavy heart because of the Covid-19 outbreak in China. As you may know, the epidemic has emerged since the beginning of 2020, spoiling the happy atmosphere of the Chinese Spring Festival. At this moment, my compatriots are devoting themselves fighting against the outbreak day and night.
According to the statistics this morning, 2,718 patients have lost their lives unfortunately, including several medical staff members at the front line. Let us express our deep condolences. There are still more than 45,604 diagnosed patients under treatment, of which 8,752 with severe symptoms. Let us cross our fingers for their quick recoveries.
The situation is still harsh. People throughout China and the world follow the changes of statistics closely and look forward to the inflection point of the epidemic. At the same time, we have also witnessed the courage and strength of China confronted by such a crisis, as well as the unity and cooperation of the international community facing such a communal challenge. That is where our confidence is sourced to defeat this epidemic.
Please allow me to make some brief introductions.
I. Results achieved
On the one hand, the number of newly confirmed cases is gradually declining, from more than 3,000 cases per day in early February to 406 yesterday. And more than 98% of the newly diagnosed cases is restricted in Hubei Province. Other mainland provinces have seeneven a greater declining, from the peak of 890 in early February to 5 yesterday, with zero increase in 26 of them.
On the other hand, number of cured cases is increasing rapidly. This number is now 29,745, consisting 38% of all confirmed cases. The fatality rate remains 3.5% (and only 0.78% outside Hubei), far lower then Ebola, SARS and MERS, which proves that the disease is largely curable.
We believe, with the strengthening of containment and treatment, the situation will be better and better. We are seeing light of victory coming through.
II. Efforts made by China
The novel coronavirus pneumonia is a major public health emergency happened in China with the fastest spreading speed, the widest range of infections, and the most difficult containment since the founding of PRC. It has posed unprecedented challenges to us: First, difficult to diagnose. The virus is previously unknown, there have been cases of infected cases tested nucleic acid negative, carriers with no symptom, and even sudden illness after 2 weeks’ quarantine. Second, the virus is highly contagious.
To our present knowledge, the virus can be transmitted through droplets, contact, air, fecal-oral transmission, reaching the top of the known virus infection level. Third, the outbreak is difficult to contain. The outbreak occurred during the Chinese New Year Festival, the peak of yearly personal flow. Moreover, Wuhan is precisely the transportation hub of the central part of China. Fourth, shortage of medical resources. With the increasing number of patients, the shortage of doctors, beds and medical supplies intensified.
The Chinese government gives top priority to safeguarding people’s lives and health. President Xi Jinping personally directed and deployed the fight, and put forward the general requirements of steadfast confidence, working together, scientific prevention and treatment, and precise policies. With all-out efforts, China has adopted a series of unprecedented measures for prevention, control, and treatment, which has effectively curbed the spread of the epidemic.
The first measure is to race against the disease and improve the diagnosis and treatment methods as soon as possible. The genetic sequence was first time detected and published to the public. The test reagents were quickly developed. The diagnosis and treatment solutions have been updated six times in one month. Three specific drugs have been put into clinical experiments and the use of recovered patients’ plasma to treat critically ill patients has been promoted. In terms of vaccine development, five technical approaches are moving forward simultaneously, and clinical trials application will be submitted in late April.
The second is to mobilize nationwide in epidemic prevention and control work. “Lockdown” measures were adopted in Wuhan, a city with a population of over tens of millions. 31 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities across the country activated the first-level response to public health emergencies. Large number of officials and volunteers working at the primary level, regardless of their own safety, entered communities, villages and towns to implement prevention and control measures, and to ensure the daily supplies of people. We canceled all outbound tourist groups, required every Chinese citizen leaving the country to fill out and sign on health declaration forms, and conducted temperature monitoring at all departure ports across the country to strictly prevent virus transmitting to foreign countries.
The third is to defend Hubei and Wuhan. Focus on increasing treatment and cure, and reducing infection and death toll. To this end, 2 temporary hospitals and 11 modular cabin hospitals were quickly built in Wuhan, with 400 isolation points and a total of more than 60,000 beds. Strict isolation measures have been adopted timely in the core epidemic area of Hubei. Four lines of defense have been formed: residents’ home-based prevention, community-based comprehensive investigation and centralized quarantine of suspected patients, modular cabin hospitals for minor cases, and designated hospitals for critically ill patients. More than 40,000 medical workers and 58,000 tons of medical and living supplies have been sent to Hubei from military and provinces all over the country.
The Fourth is to conduct international cooperation in an open, transparent and responsible manner. We informed the World Health Organization as soon as possible and shared the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus. We have invited WHO experts to visit Wuhan and other places and to have on-the spot investigation and in-depth professional exchanges. We keep close contact and coordination with the health authorities and embassies of many countries including the Netherlands, to speed up vaccine and drug development, share information, verify suspected and confirmed cases, and respond to foreign concerns in a timely manner.
These measures and remarkable achievement fully reflect the sense of responsibility of the Chinese government, fully demonstrate the advantages of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and fully show the fearless sacrifice and unprecedented cohesion of the Chinese people. According to statistics from relevant prediction models, the measures taken by China have reduced the occurrence of infections by at least 80%, which has earned valuable time for the combat in China and around the world. On this, WHO Director-General Tedros also repeatedly emphasized that “China’s speed, scale and efficiency of response is rarely seen in the world”. The decisive and extraordinary measures taken by China set an example for the global response to epidemic outbreak in many aspects. After visiting China, the WHO team of experts warned a worldwide risk of virus spreading, applauded China’s approach as “technology-powered and science-driven” and hope all countries follow China to move fast in saving lives.
III. Cooperation between China and the Netherlands
Since the outbreak, more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations have expressed sympathy to China, and nearly 30 countries have provided official assistance to China, which fully reflects the spirit of shared destiny of the international community. Here in the Netherlands, we also deeply feel the care for the outbreak in China and the support for the Chinese people from Dutch people. Recently, His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the Foreign Minister all expressed their sympathies and supports to the Chinese leaders. The Dutch government provided an additional aid fund of 1 million euros to the WHO. Dutch companies donated badly needed medical supplies worth tens of millions of RMB to China.
Our embassy receives a lot of letters of sympathy and cheering videos sent by local people from all walks of life every day. The Dutch government and people also condemn the individual cases of discrimination against Chinese in relation to the outbreak. China is deeply grateful for your support. China also praises the necessary and reasonable prevention measures taken by the Netherlands, including following WHO advice by not taking additional restrictive measures on personnel and trade, and timely releasing and updating of guidelines by relevant institutions such as the RIVM. The Chinese Embassy will continue to maintain close communication and coordination with the Dutch government.
IV. How to view the impact of the epidemic on the economy
With business activities deferred and obstruction of transportation, there has been some impact on the Chinese economy. This is inevitable and also the cost we have to bear in order to protect people’s lives and health. Yet in general, the impact is limited, short-term and manageable.
First reason, the fundamentals sustaining sound economic growth have not been changed. China has accumulated a solid material and technological foundation since the reform and opening up. China has an economy volume of nearly 100 trillion yuan. Such a large volume will not be shaken by the short-term impact of the epidemic. The World Bank and the IMF have both made statements expressing confidence of strong resilience of China’s economy. Some experts estimate that the epidemic will only reduce China’s annual GDP growth rate by 0.1 to 0.2 percent. IMF President Georgieva said that if the epidemic can be controlled in a short time, China’s economy is expected to rebound soon.
Second reason, we have sufficient policies to offset the short-term impact of the epidemic. In response to the short-term difficulties that delayed resumption of work and production may cause to the enterprises, the Chinese government has stepped up macroeconomic policy adjustments and rolled out a series of policy measures, including: increasing capital investment, phased tax and fee reduction, and strengthening preferential credit support. The Ministry of Finance has provided interest discounts on loans to key enterprises to keep their actual financing cost below 1.6%.
Local governments of all levels have also taken timely measures to ensure the supply of materials, resume production and operation, support small and medium-sized enterprises, and guarantee employment and people’s livelihood. In order to stabilize employment, some local governments return 50% of the unemployment insurance premiums enterprises paid in the previous year if they do not lay off employees. The combination of these policies will greatly relieve the pressures of the enterprises, increase market confidence, and stabilize investment expectations.
Third, impact of the epidemic accelerates economic transformation and upgrading. Currently, while offline consumption, especially transportation, exhibitions, tourism, hotels, restaurants, film and entertainment services are heavily hit by the epidemic, new business formats and models online are growing stronger, including the Internet of Things, online retail and medical service, etc.
Many challenges exist, but there are more solutions to deal with them. By constantly addressing weak links and seizing opportunities throughout storms, the Chinese economy will emerge stronger from the epidemic.
Last Sunday, China held a conference to coordinate the containment of the outbreak and the economic and social development, with 8 measures proposed.
- First, targeted resumption of work and production in different regions with different grades.
- Second, strengthening the adjustment of macroeconomic policies, including phased and targeted tax and fee reduction policies, to help small and medium-sized enterprises overcome difficulties. To launch flexible and appropriate monetary and financial support in a proper time.
- Third, to comprehensively strengthen employment stabilization measures.
- Fourth, to resolutely complete the task of fighting poverty.
- Fifth, to promote the resumption of work and production of the enterprises.
- Six, to guarantee agricultural production in spring.
- Seventh, to take concrete measures to safeguard basic livelihood.
- Eighth, to stabilize bases of foreign investment and trade. To give priority to guaranteeing the restore of production supply of leading companies and key links to stabilize the global supply chain. To ensure the smooth operation of the foreign trade industrial chain and supply chain and the landing of major foreign investment projects, to expand the opening up of financial and other service industries, to continue to optimize the business environment, in order to increase confidence in long-term foreign investment and operations.
It is important to take a long-term view. When looking at China’s economic development, we should insist on a comprehensive, dialectical, and long-term perspective. Laying emphasis on both epidemic containment and economic operation, the Chinese government will successfully settle the short-term impact of the epidemic, release the huge potential and strong momentum of China’s development, and work hard to complete this year’s economic and social development goals.
Ladies and gentlemen, the current situation is still severe and complicated, South Korea, Iran, and Italy also face coronavirus outbreaks. We will continue to firmly hold our belief in victory, and work closely with the international community to win the battle against this epidemic.”
Ambassador Hong also thanked Diplomat Magazine, for organizing the briefing; Mr. Deputy Director Arjen van den Berg from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Deputy Director Bruins from Ministry of Health, as well as Mr. President Jochum Haakma of Netherlands China Business Council, for their support. The event was held at Crowne Plaza Promenade hotel in The Hague.
For updated information, please visit the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in The Hague: http://nl.china-embassy.org/eng/