President Xi Jinping inquires about supply of daily necessities for residents at a community in Wuhan, Hubei Province, on March 10 (XINHUA)
Wearing a mask like everyone else and regular dark clothes, President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, Hubei Province, on March 10, where he inspected a hospital treating patients with novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and a residential community. He met people who have been fighting the epidemic at the frontline and expressed appreciation for their hard work.
During the visit, Xi said the situation in Hubei and Wuhan has shown positive changes, with the spread of the virus there basically curbed. "Initial success has been achieved in stabilizing the situation and turning the tide," he said.
He also pointed out that the task of prevention and control remains arduous, and pledged to continue taking epidemic prevention and control as a task of paramount importance.
His visit is a confidence boost not just for China but beyond, and provides a strong antidote for the fears and concerns that may follow the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11.
"Wuhan's experience has proven that epidemic containment can be achieved. China's experience in combating the epidemic is scientific and effective, which offers inspiration to the whole world," Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, a consultant at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries based in India, told Xinhua News Agency.
"All countries can still change the course of this pandemic if countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva on March 11.
A customs officer checks a passenger's health application card at the Beijing Capital International Airport on March 7 (XINHUA)
Message of revival
The number of newly confirmed cases in Wuhan had dropped to 17 on March 9, the lowest since the city was sealed off in January to prevent the spread of the virus, National Health Commission (NHC) spokesperson Mi Feng said at a press conference in Beijing on March 10. No other cities countrywide reported new cases except for two imported ones that day.
Restrictions on traveling began to be eased in Hubei after the introduction of a color-coded health rating system for residents. Those testing healthy can travel freely within the province and return to work.
Xi's visit is seen as a confirmation of the improved situation. The BBC's China correspondent Stephen McDonell analyzed it as a "nationwide green light" that "the return to 'normality' should carry on apace." At the Huoshenshan Hospital, Xi spoke with patients there via video link and at the Donghu New Town community, he waved back to residents, who had gathered on their balconies and at their windows and sent out loud cheers on seeing him.
As Xi walked through a marketplace where vendors were selling vegetables enclosed in plastic bags, he talked with them about ensuring a steady supply. Later, he spoke to community members about their work in epidemic prevention and control. The sight of him sitting in the open on a simple chair and talking to the members was reminiscent of the days when he had toured villages and communities before becoming president and listened to their problems and offered suggestions.
"To see him just being in the city probably means that parts of Hubei will be opened up very soon with a resumption of transport links at least within the province, along with more shops opening their doors. Elsewhere in China, things are going to start moving much more quickly," McDonell said.
A primary school student in Pengzhou, Sichuan Province in southwest China, learns about prevention and control of novel coronavirus infection from TV at home on March 9 (XINHUA)
Xi's visit was also made to express his appreciation in person to a city that made incalculable sacrifices so that the epidemic could be contained. Acknowledging the people's contribution and expressing condolences for the lives lost, Xi said the positive trend in epidemic control could not have been achieved without their sacrifice and perseverance.
Xi's visit showed a leader's responsibility and demonstrated that he cares about his people, Andrey Ostrovsky, Deputy Director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, told Xinhua.
China's progress in containing the virus should be attributed to government leadership and the cooperation of its people at the same time, Tedros told Xinhua. "It cannot happen without the strong commitment from the government and strong cooperation by the people."
Workers take a special train at the Pingdingshan Station, Henan Province in central China, to return to work on March 1 (XINHUA)
With the number of confirmed cases surpassing 118,000 in 114 countries and regions and the death toll crossing 4,200, Tedros cautioned on March 11 that the number of infections and deaths is expected to climb higher in the days ahead.
In the grim situation, China is willing to share its prevention and control measures, which were found effective by WHO experts during an earlier visit to China.
In February, a joint mission of Chinese and WHO experts visited Wuhan and other cities in China to assess the epidemic prevention and control work. In their report, the team said, "In the face of a previously unknown disease, China has… rolled out probably the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history. It moved from this sort of one-size-fits-all approach to a science and risk-based approach, which was tailored to allow it to use different containment approaches and measures."
One of the experts, Canadian epidemiologist Bruce Aylward, said, "Hundreds of thousands of people in China did not get COVID-19 because of this aggressive response."
With the world becoming globalized, the novel coronavirus is a common challenge facing all countries. "The Chinese Government has taken effective measures to deal with the epidemic, shared its experience and information with other countries, and done as much as possible to prevent the epidemic from spreading to other countries," Iryna Nykorak, chief executive officer of the Silk Road Association of Ukraine, told Xinhua.
China has reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening international cooperation against the novel coronavirus, which includes sharing its experience so that other countries can accelerate their epidemic response and reduce losses.
"We shared many technical documents, including our epidemic prevention and control measures, as well as diagnosis and treatment plans, with more than 100 countries around the world and over 10 international and regional organizations," Zeng Yixin, Vice Minister of the NHC, said during a briefing last month on international cooperation in response to COVID-19.
On March 4, four Chinese clinicians involved in the frontline treatment of COVID-19 were invited to discuss the treatment method. The whole conference was in English so that the world could follow it.
"Having gone through such difficulties, we are ready to share our knowledge and experience with relevant countries to enhance the capabilities of their professional personnel on epidemic prevention and control as well as medical treatment. Such cooperation will contribute to the global epidemic prevention and control efforts," Zeng said.
A volunteer takes grocery to a community under lockdown in Wuhan, Hubei Province, on March 10 (XINHUA)
In recent weeks, a video clip has gone viral on the Internet, viewed more than 10 million times. It shows a young Chinese girl distributing free masks to passersby in Tokyo. The message on her box of masks, written in Japanese, reads: "With thanks from Wuhan."
"The Japanese Government and people provided a lot of emergency supplies to Wuhan during a critical time. So I want to express my gratitude in my way," the ano- nymous girl said.
The Chinese Government has sent test kits, masks and protective clothing to Japan and the Republic of Korea, and medical experts to Iran, Iraq and Italy, all affected by the epidemic. According to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, the government will donate $20 million to WHO to support it in carrying out international cooperation in fighting COVID-19 and helping developing countries improve their response capacities.
On March 10, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a phone call with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, saying the bilateral friendship would be deepened amid the fight against COVID-19. Outside China, Italy has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 with over 10,000 infections and more than 800 deaths. Wang said as a good friend and comprehensive strategic partner of Italy, China fully understands the challenges Italy is confronting.
"Diseases do not respect borders. We should work together to jointly protect people's health around the world," Zeng said. "We will play our role as a responsible major country, and promote building a community with a shared future for all so that we can jointly safeguard regional and international public health security."
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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