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The Epidemic is Temporary, but Cooperation Lasts

On 6 Feburary 2020, Consul General Dong Zhihua published an article on The West Australian entitled China Ties Can Survive Virus.

The start of the Chinese New Year of the Metal Rat is very dramatic. While usually this should be a period of the largest human movement on earth with hundreds of millions of Chinese traveling home across the country for family reunions, or going abroad for holidays. It has all been interrupted by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

In the past few days, I received phone calls, emails, text messages from Premier McGowan, business leaders and people from all walksas of life expressing  sympathy and support for China and the Chinese people. The WA Chinese community expressed their support with donations and an outpouring of emotion and love on social media.

Meanwhile there is also a lot of confusion and uncertainty as the situation evolves so fast. The consulate-general is flooded by inquiries and calls for assistance after flights are cancelled and a comprehensive entry ban for non-Australian residents from mainland China. Thousands of Chinese visitors are stranded in Perth. Thousands of Chinese students cannot come on time for the start of the new semester in WA universities.

At such a time, I feel obliged to come out and publicly say thank you to those who have supported us in various ways. I also wish to send out a message of hope and confidence. As Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization said, "This is the time for facts, not fear; This is the time for science, not rumors; This is the time for solidarity, not stigma."

China has full confidence and the capability to win this fight against the epidemic. The whole country, from the top leadership to the grassroots, is making an all-out efforts in this battle. On the first day of the Lunar New Year, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee convened a special meeting and established a leading group to address the matter. President Xi Jinping stressed that nothing matters more than people's safety and health. Governments at all levels is making efforts to ensure financing and supplies.

As an old Chinese saying goes, every man is responsible for the fate of his country. Many Chinese are going in the reverse direction during the Spring Festival, not heading home, but to work on the frontlines of the fight against the epidemic.Thousands of doctors and nurses across the country left their families behind and volunteered to go to the epicentre Wuhan in Hubei Province. Thousands of workers raced against time and built two makeshift hospitals within 10 days. Medical professionals from the People's Liberation Army are also sent to the frontline. Factories are running around the clock to produce masks, medicines and even zips for protection suits.

Meanwhile China adopted a very responsible attitude towards the world. We shared information with the World Health Organization and other countries in a highly open, transparent and responsible manner. We have taken the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures, many of which go well beyond the requirements of the international health regulations of the WHO. China suspended all outbound tourist groups starting from January 24 to minimize the risks to the outside world.

We have done all we can not only for ourselves, but also for the sake of regional and global public health security.

Viruses are horrible. What's more horrible are rumours and panic. WHO has been calling on countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based. According to a WHO report released on February 3, there are altogether 153 confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV outside China, which is less than one percent of the number in China. Thanks to China's efforts, we have effectively contained the cross-border spread of the 2019-nCoV. WHO applauded China, saying it's setting a new standard for outbreak response.

According to media reports, the 2009 H1N1 flu had a mortality rate of 17.4%. The mortality rate of MERS of 2012 was 34.4% and Ebola 40.4%. With China's unrelenting efforts, the 2019-nCoV mortality rate in China is about 2.1%, much lower than the figures above. Since February 1, cured cases began to outnumber deaths. As of 12am February 3, a total of 632 patients have been cured and discharged.

It is worth mentioning that the WHO declared the 2019-nCoV a public health emergency of international concern to help ill-prepared countries with weaker health systems to get necessary international assistance. The WHO doesn't approve of and even rejects travel and trade bans on China. German media stated that in front of the epidemic, if we are compassionate and ready to help, fear and panic will fade away. If we lose humanity, it will not just be a battle against disease that we lose.

We remain confident on China's economy. In 2019 China's GDP grew to 99.9 trillion RMB (14.38 trillion U.S. Dollars) with per capita GDP exceeding 10,000 U.S. Dollars for the first time. China is at a pivotal stage of promoting high-quality development through transformation of the growth model, improvement of the economic structure and fostering new drivers of growth. We will make sustained efforts to promote reform, development and stability to make sure that the first centenary goal be attained by the end of 2020, that a moderately prosperous society be built and the remaining 16.6 million people lifted out of absolute poverty.

2020 is meant to be a promising year for WA tourism and our bilateral ties, with China Eastern opening its trial flight between Shanghai and Perth, and exciting cultural and sports events ahead. In spite of the difficulties, we can start all over again once the virus is under control, with strong commitment from both sides. I thank Mr McGowan for publicly expressing sympathy and support to the Chinese People and the broader Chinese community, which has been widely applauded on Chinese social media. I thank the WA people for standing with us.

At this critical juncture, we need not only confidence, but also patience. There may be a relatively quieter period ahead and some people will have to be confined indoors for quarantine purpose. The WA Chinese community and Chinese enterprises have been very self-disciplined in taking all precautionary measures.

The consulate general will do everything we can, together with Federal and State authorities, to sort out the issues facing Chinese visitors and students, while sticking to the bottom line of ensuring public health security. The epidemic is temporary, but cooperation lasts. In solidarity, we can make our bilateral links even stronger out of this difficult times.

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