Full Text: Interview of H.E. Zheng Zhuqiang, Chinese Ambassador to Uganda, with Daily Monitor,on the Fight against Pandemic COVID-19

Recently, H.E. Zheng Zhuqiang, Chinese Ambassador to Uganda, accepted a request for written interview from the Daily Monitor, during which he took such questions as what China's fight against corona virus mean both in China and globally, what Uganda can learn from China's experience, and what technical and financial support China provides to Uganda. Part of the interview was published on Daily Monitor on 3 April, 2020.

For the benefits and interests of the readership, below is the full transcript of the interview.

1. Q: What are the issues you would want to raise and put across?

First of all, I wish to express our high appreciation to the general public of Uganda, and in particular, the readership --as well as the staff and editorial board---of the Daily Monitor, for your support and solidarity during the fight against COVID-19, a fight that is still on-going, and becoming more inclusive. We thank you also for your continued interest in the way that China has been fighting and the experience that we acquired during the process.

As all are aware, China was first hit by the virus at the turn of the year 2019/2020, and has since been fighting the virus arduously. Today, China has made remarkable achievements, though far from "successful elimination of new infections", as indicated by your questionnaire, because imported cases are still increasing in China, and locally transmitted cases are still there now and then. It was factual that during the process, while China has been making explorations and sacrifices as a pioneer in the journey of the fight against COVID-19, we also made some contribution, accumulating experience and buying precious time for the rest of the world. We would be more than happy to share it with the world, Uganda in particular, because this is a joint fight and all of us are in the same trench against the common enemy of COVID-19.

Facing the COVID-19 outbreak that caught us all by surprise, the Chinese government and Chinese people have been undaunted as we took on this formidable task. From day one of our fight against the outbreak, we have put people's life and health first. We have acted according to the overall principle of shoring up confidence, strengthening unity, ensuring science-based control and treatment and imposing targeted measures. We have mobilized the whole nation, set up collective control and treatment mechanisms and acted with openness and transparency. What we fought was a people's war against the outbreak. We have put up a strenuous struggle and made tremendous sacrifices. Now the situation in China is moving steadily in a positive direction. Life and work are quickly returning to normal. Yet, there is no way we will lower our guard or relax control.

At the most difficult moment in our fight against the outbreak, China received solidarity, assistance and help from a lot of members of the global community, among whom of course is Uganda. Such expressions of friendship will always be remembered and cherished by the Chinese people.

Major infectious disease like COVID-19 is the enemy of all. As now we speak, the COVID-19 disease is spreading worldwide, posing enormous threat to life and health and bringing formidable challenge to global public health security. The situation is disturbing and unsettling. At such a moment, it is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response. We must comprehensively step up international cooperation and foster greater synergy so that humanity as one could win the battle against such a major infectious disease.

For that to happen, H. E. President Xi Jinping has put forth four proposals during the recent G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 via video link in Beijing.

The first is that the international community needs to be resolute in fighting an all-out global war against the COVID-19 outbreak, moving swiftly to stem the spread of the virus.

The second is that all must work together to build a strongest global network of control and treatment that the world has ever seen. China has set up its online COVID-19 knowledge center that is open to all countries. It is imperative that countries pool their strengths and speed up research and development of drugs, vaccines and testing capabilities in the hope to achieve early breakthrough to the benefit of all. Discussions are also needed regarding the establishment of regional emergency liaison mechanisms to enable quicker response to public health emergencies.

The third is that we need to support international organizations in playing their active roles. China supports WHO in leading the global efforts to develop science-based and proper control and treatment and to minimize cross-border spread. For China, we will be happy to join other countries and scale up support for relevant international and regional organizations.

The fourth is that we need to enhance international macro-economic policy coordination. The outbreak has disrupted production and demand across the globe. Countries need to leverage and coordinate their macro policies to counteract the negative impact and prevent the world economy from falling into recession. We need to implement strong and effective fiscal and monetary policies to keep our exchange rates basically stable. We need to jointly keep the global industrial and supply chains stable. What China will do in this regard is to increase its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities, and anti-epidemic and other supplies to the international market. What's more, we also need to protect women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, and provide for people's basic needs. China will continue to advance reform and opening-up, widen market access, improve the business environment, and expand imports and outbound investment to contribute to a stable world economy.

Now is a crucial moment, a time for us to rise up to the challenge and act with swiftness. I am convinced that through solidarity and mutual assistance, we--be it China, Uganda, or the world as whole, will prevail over this virus and we all will embrace a brighter future for mankind!

2. Q: What does that mean to the Government of China in its fight against corona virus both in China and globally?

A: This is, indeed, a very, very good question.

First, it shows that the disease is preventable, controllable and curable, but countries and the general public need to act decisively for the battle.

When COVID-19, a previously unknown coronavirus, was first discovered in Central China's Wuhan City at the turn of year 2019 and 2020 and once spread rapidly in China, it was so infectious, bringing hundreds even thousands confirmed cases by the passing of a day, and the fatality toll rising, with no end what so ever at sight then. More than two months later, however, due to the all-out efforts by the Chinese people and the solidarity of all peoples, the pandemic is now effectively prevented and controlled in China, with latest figures show that rarely any locally transmitted cases are recorded, for over 14 days now.

Meanwhile, the pandemic is unfortunately ravaging the world at large, with over 200 countries and areas being affected, and the total confirmed cases reaching to over 700,000, with tens of thousands of news cases and thousands of new fatalities each passing day. In Uganda, the confirmed cases are also on the rise, and people are beginning to panic.

Through the battle that China has been fighting and the achievements she has scored, we learn that we must keep vigilant but never panic. This disease is preventable, controllable and curable, with around 4% fatality rate, if well managed. But then, the country and its general public, really need to take decisive action now, better sooner than later, better stricter than looser, lest one should become loser.

Equally important is that the achievements that China has made already show the advantage of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics in the New Era.

It shows that the Chinese tenacious fight against the virus has now resulted in a growing positive momentum across the country, it fully demonstrated China's capability to put up all the might of a country to face up to any serious emergent challenge and to take up any major task of the country.

In face of such a serious crisis and major test, since the very beginning of the outbreak of the epidemic, H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, has been standing in the forefront of the war, attaching vital importance to the issue. President Xi Jinping has convened and chaired more than a dozen top-level meetings and conferences on epidemic prevention and control since the outbreak, the first one right on the first day of Spring Festival, the most important festival and holiday in China.

In all these meetings, some with direct audience of up to 170,000 (via video conferencing system), President Xi Jinping has been exerting excellent leadership by making timely commands and vital and swift deployment, strengthening the centralized, unified leadership of the Party, demanding relevant authorities at all levels across the country to put people's lives and health as the top priority to adopt effective measures to curb the spread of the virus. In so doing, the entire Chinese people have been rallied behind him in the severe battle against the virus, which was the fundamental reason for our achievements till now.

Meanwhile, what China has been doing also demonstrates that the human being is a community with shared future and China is a responsible player in this community.

The virus recognizes no race, no color, nor border. It is the common enemy of human being, which is ever more fully displayed against the background of such a pandemic.

China has been doing her part from the very beginning. Apart from her arduous fight at home, keeping the virus from spreading to other parts of the world, China has been committed to international and regional cooperation on the epidemic response, including that with the Ugandan government. China maintains regular communication with the World Health Organization and relevant countries, keeping the epidemic situation open and transparent, sharing the genetic sequence of the virus in a timely manner with WHO and other countries, updating the latest information on the development of the virus control in the country, to name just a few.

Likewise, the international community has been providing valuable moral and material support to China. More than 170 heads of state and 40 heads of international organizations have expressed their solidarity with China, H.E. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni included. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that China is "setting a new standard for outbreak response". Indeed, China has done her best to help secure time and to accumulate experience for the entire world, in our joint fight against COVID-19.

China believes that all members of the international community should join hands in the fight against this common enemy of human being, COVID-19. On her part, China has been following her vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, lived up to her responsibility as a major country, and made substantial contributions to global public health, protecting not only her own people, but also the rest of the world. Despite her own heavy tasks on epidemic control, China has been providing supplies and technology support within her capacity to more than 80 countries that are severely affected by COVID-19 and those with vulnerable medical systems, such as Iran, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy and African countries including Uganda, to name just a few as well as to WHO.

All in all, China is committed to working with the the rest of world in our joint efforts to win the battle against the COVID-19.

3. Q: What lessons can Ugandan Government and health officials learn from China's experience after Uganda registered its first case? What must Uganda do and must not do in combating the virus from spreading further?

A: Thank you for your kind remarks on our achievements in combating the virus, but the fight is far from over. Like Uganda, China also records imported cases day by day in their dozens. At the same time, as one of the countries that the virus first hit, the locally transmitted cases in China has maintained at single digit for over 14 days now.

China and Uganda are good friends, partners and brothers, and the mutual exchange and learning in the field of governance, especially in the fields of the health sector is one of the important fields of cooperation in the Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership between us.

As the first country to issue the mobilization order and commanded all the forces of the country in this fight, China has adopted an overall and most strict approach to fight the pandemic, thus not only effectively prevented the virus to spread within her territory, but also help curb the spread internationally, thus buying time, accumulating experience, and making sacrifices for the international community. Many of the countries including African countries wish to learn from the Chinese experience and best practices, and we are only happy to share. While it is such a huge task to summarize some of the experience, I will try to briefly make the following three points, for your reference.

Firstly is to establish a consolidated and highly efficient command system. The Chinese leadership, with H. E. President Xi Jinping as its core, attaches great importance to the battle and has been rallying all the forces nationwide to prevent and control the disease. President Xi himself stands in the forefront of the fight, leading, commanding and deploying resources and human capitals in the fight against COVID-19. As a guideline, China determined from the very beginning that it is essential to shore up confidence, strengthen unity, ensure science-based control and treatment, and impose targeted measures, as pointed out by President Xi Jinping. The President visited Wuhan, the epic center of the outbreak of COVID-19, where he reviewed the prevention and control efforts and gave the instruction on the way forward.

All forces, including the military, the medical teams and the community across the country started to act immediately upon taking relevant orders, with more than 340 medical teams and more than 40,000 excellent medical workers urgently raced to Hubei, the epic center of the disease then. In that way, the capability to treat and cure patients was greatly strengthened at the focal point. Drastic measures were also taken to build new hospitals, to transform stadiums, exhibition centers and training centers to temporary hospitals and quarantine center, thus effectively increase the supply of hospital beds, including the ICU beds, with the number of normal beds treating COVID-19 more than doubled from 5000 to 25,000, among them 9000 ICUs, in a short time.

Secondly is to adopt a law-based, science-driven and targeted strategy for prevention and control of the virus.

Facing such an enemy that the human being encounters for the first time, all of China is embattled for the fight immediately, and first and foremost, to prioritize the cutting of the chain of infections.

To that effect, China has undertaken to set two "defensive lines" against the virus.

The Front Line (Line 1) focuses on Wuhan City, the city where the virus first erupted. With the strategic objective being "Guarding against outward infections and internal diffusion", the first thing was to "lock down" the city to cut off all external links--planes, railways, highways, waterways.

At the same time, within Wuhan City, a comprehensive approach, based on "Community Grid Management" and featured in "To admit and treat every confirmed case, to test every suspected case, and to isolate and place every close contact under medical observation". "Four-Early Measures" was also implemented, namely early detection, early reporting, early quarantine and early treatment of the cases. To deal with the huge human power including that of the the medical human power, China adopted an approach of "One Province for One City", requesting each of the provinces other than Hubei, to provide point-to-point support to a certain city in Hubei.

Line 2 is to mobilize our countrymen nationwide on the knowledge and information on the prevention and control of the disease via physical and online media, so that everyone fully understands he or she has to change his/her habit, and that staying home and staying safe itself is the most important contribution one could make at such a special moment, so that everyone knows what he/she should, how he/she could do as a member of the general public.

It is also important to note that during the prevention, treatment and recover process of COVID-19, the traditional Chinese medicine has been widely applied and helpful.

Thirdly is to conduct in-depth international exchange and cooperation. The world is increasingly a "global village".

As one of the villager, China keeps close communication and cooperation with the World Health Organization and other countries including Uganda, receives invaluable support and solidarity, boosting our confidence and propelling our march against the prevention and control of the disease.

During the fight against the virus of COIVD-19, it is also important to take precautions and resolutely fight against the political virus, which discriminates against certain country or people who suffer from the disease, sometimes through a way of stigmatization, and the misinformation virus, which, by making and spreading fake news, are causing panic of the public. Both, which Uganda is also fighting, will do nothing but harm in the our concerted fight against COVID-19, and will eventually undermine the efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic. As Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, put it, "This is time for facts, not fear. This is time for science, not rumors. This is time for solidarity, not stigma."

4. Q: What technical and financial support will Chinese Government offer to Ugandan Government?

A: On 21 March, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Uganda, as a 36-year-old Ugandan national arrived at Entebbe International Airport after his business trip to Dubai. Since then, the number of cases in Uganda has been increasing, reaching 33 as of 30 March, 2020, with three locally transmitted cases.

China and Uganda are comprehensive partners that have long been supporting and helping each other. Last year, when Uganda was fighting against Ebola, China also provided emergency assistance to Uganda just before President Museveni headed to China for a visit. China will never forget the invaluable support and solidarity given by Uganda during China's most trying moments, including this challenging period in the fight against COVID-19. H.E. President Museveni sent a letter of solidarity to H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China. People in all walks of life including readers of the Daily Monitor and the Ugandan students in Wuhan and other cities in China also expressed their continued support and solidarity towards China in China's efforts to combat the virus.

As an ancient Chinese poem says, "Give me peaches, and I will return you plums. Not that I want to return you anything, but that I wish to maintain our amity eternally." Now that the situation is getting better in China, China will further strengthen her support to Uganda, to the best of her capability, despite her own heavy tasks on pandemic control.

To date, China has delivered 12,000 testing kits for African countries via Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Uganda benefited. The Chinese Government, through the Embassy, has been sharing the knowledge, information, experience and skills with the Ugandan counterparts, including the Ministry of Health and the Mulago Hospital. Chinese medical team is assisting China Uganda Friendship Hospital in Naguru, a designated hospital for confirmed cases of Uganda, and the Ugandan general public in their fight against the pandemic.

On 18 March, Chinese officials and health care specialists successfully held an online video conference with nearly 300 of their counterparts from the Africa CDC and 24 African countries, sharing China's experiences and practices in pandemic control and clinical treatment, and giving answers to scores of questions from the African side. The conference lasted for three and a half hours and was well received. African, Ugandan included, participants spoke highly of China's effective battle against the pandemic and important contributions to global public health security, and were happy that the video conference was timely, professional and effective. They stressed that China's experiences and practices are exemplary, setting standards for African countries' response to the virus. They also expressed the hope to strengthen cooperation with China and fight together to win the battle against the pandemic.

On the side of the people to people exchange, some Chinese companies and civil organizations have also provided urgently needed materials to Uganda, all have been well received by the Ugandan government and the general public. For instance, 100,000 masks, 20,089 test kits, 741 medical-use protective suits and 1,111 face shields donated by Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation reached Uganda on 24 March, as retweeted by President Museveni. President Museveni also commended Chinese company Huawei for providing video-conferencing facilities linking the Ministry of Health headquarters, Mulago Hospital and hospitals across Uganda, enabling medical staff to conduct real-time and interactive communication, including on their phones and computers, without much risk of physical contact. Furthermore, other Chinese companies such as Chongqing International Construction Corporation (CICO) and China Railway 7th Group made their own contributions as well to Uganda's fighting against COVID-19 by donating blankets, mosquito nets, anti-bacteria mattresses and etc. On March 28, the Liaoshen Industrial Park in Kapeeka operated by Chinese investors set up a Support Fund for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19, in a bid to help the Ugandan Government, especially the local residents near the park, to purchase some necessary protection materials and drugs in a bid to fight COVID-19, with an initial 98 million Ugandan Shillings from the 16 major Chinese investors in the park and others.

Just last week, I have been in constant meetings and telephonic conversations with Prime Minister Rugunda, Foreign Minister Kutesa, Health Minister Aceng, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health Dr. Atwine and other senior officials in the Uganda Government on how China can provide more support for Uganda's fight against COVID-19. We have listened attentively to our Ugandan brothers and sisters, as always, and have relayed those requests to our Headquarters immediately, with our strong proposals. I am confident that more support from China will be on its way to Uganda!

In a more general term, China has been provided supplies and technology support within her capacity to countries that are severely affected by COVID-19 and those with vulnerable medical systems. Up to 26 March, China has provided four batches of anti-epidemic emergency aid to 89 countries and 4 international organizations. Earlier in March, China made a contribution of 20 million US dollars to the WHO in support of its global efforts in combating the COVID-19 epidemic and helping developing countries improve their response capacities and strengthen public health systems.

No country can face the pandemic alone. At this trying moment, concerted efforts of the world are needed more than ever. Mankind is a community with a shared future, only through unity and coordination can humanity tackle various global risks and challenges. Going forward, China will continue to offer as much support and solidarity as possible in response to the requests and needs of Uganda, to work together to enhance our mutual and respective capacity in winning the battle against the disease, and to implement the outcomes in the health sector of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation(End).

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