Here's the latest update on COVID-19 in China's mainland. According to the National Health Commission, March 9 saw 1,297 patients cured and discharged from hospital, bringing the tally to 59,897.
A video conference of medical experts from China and Pacific island countries is held today.
As we speak, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Health Commission as well as Chinese medical experts are sharing experience and information in a video conference with government officials and medical specialists from 10 Pacific island countries, namely, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Micronesia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Since the epidemic broke out, China has been active in international cooperation, sharing the latest information with countries and regions including Pacific island countries and responding to concerns in an open, transparent and highly responsible manner to safeguard regional and international public health security. Governments and people of Pacific island countries also expressed support for China's fight against COVID-19 and offered assistance, for which we are very grateful.
With the epidemic breaking out in multiple places around the world and spreading to wider areas, it is all the more important to enhance international cooperation in prevention and control. China attaches high importance to the challenges faced by Pacific island countries in this area. We are ready to help them to the best of our capabilities to defeat the disease together and foster a community with a shared future for mankind.
More details of the conference will be released in a timely manner.
Q: On March 9 the European Union issued a comprehensive strategy with Africa focusing on security, economic growth, climate change, digital transformation and migration. According to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, the European Union does not plan to compete with China and will instead forge its own strategy to strengthen relations with the African continent. Do you have any comment on that?
A: We noted the reports and remarks from the EU side.
It is a common responsibility for the international community to support peace and development in Africa. China is always open to international cooperation with Africa. We are glad to see Africa developing diversified cooperative partnerships, and we welcome the international community, including the European Union, to help Africa achieve development and prosperity by attaching greater importance to and increasing input in the continent while respecting its own will.
China and the EU are Africa's important partners for cooperation with distinctive edges and features. China and the EU have had 11 rounds of consultation on Africa to discuss bilateral and trilateral cooperation. We would like to work with the EU and the larger international community to enhance exchange and dialogue, seek more fruitful cooperation with Africa, advancing Africa-related cooperation, and help African countries strengthen capabilities to fight terrorism, deal with climate change and realize sustainable development.
China-Africa friendly cooperation enjoys a sound momentum, which plays an important guiding role for international cooperation with Africa. Guided by the concept of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests and the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith, China will continue to implement FOCAC Beijing Summit outcomes and leaders' consensus, carry on the tradition of mutual support, jointly fight the COVID-19 epidemic and advance our comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership.
Q: On March 9, a meeting of SADC Ministers of Health held in Tanzania expressed appreciation and support for China's efforts against the epidemic and readiness to strengthen solidarity and coordination with China. What is your comment?
A: Since the epidemic broke out, the Chinese government and people have been making all-out efforts to fight against it. We are seeing the positive effects of these measures. Throughout this fight, African countries have been standing alongside China, supporting us in various ways. Leaders of almost all the African countries that have diplomatic ties with China and Chairperson of the African Union Commission have all expressed sympathy and support by phone calls or letters. The AU Council of Ministers, the Peace and Security Council of the AU, the African Ministers of Health Conference, Meeting of the Ministers of Health of the Economic Community of West African States and yesterday's Extraordinary Meeting for SADC Ministers of Health have all spoken highly of China's epidemic response. We are touched in particular to see some African countries offering us funds or goods despite their own limited resources. This is the best embodiment of the brotherhood the two sides share through thick and thin and the joint efforts towards building a more closely-knit community with a shared future.
African countries are now facing high risks of imported cases and some of them have seen confirmed cases. While shoring up our own line of defense, we stand ready to strengthen solidarity and cooperation with African countries, support and help them to the best of our capabilities, and jointly contribute to safeguarding regional and global public health security.
Q: Does China have any plans to evacuate citizens from Italy?
A: The Chinese government attaches high importance to the safety and health of Chinese nationals in Italy. Our embassy and consulates there have asked the Italian side to take concrete measures to address their concerns in this regard. We also call on Chinese citizens in Italy, including students and employees of Chinese enterprises, to rely on science, stay calm and rational, avoid panic, take protective measures, follow local prevention and control requirements, and prevent cross infection caused by disorderly movement. We will closely monitor the situation and take all necessary steps to safeguard overseas Chinese citizens' safety and legitimate rights and interests.
Q: Afghan President Ghani was sworn in for a second term on March 9 in a ceremony at the presidential palace. On the same day, Afghanistan's former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah held a parallel inauguration ceremony of his own at a different venue. Could you comment on that and share your views on how things would develop going forward?
A: China respects the Afghan people's independent decision on their country's future. We congratulate President Ghani on his assumption of office and call on all parties in Afghanistan to put the country and people first, consolidate consensus and accelerate the peace, reconstruction and reconciliation process. China stands ready to work with the Afghan government and people to enhance traditional friendship and deliver more benefits to the two peoples.
As to the future developments of the situation, it is our view that things are in a critical stage right now. The US and the Taliban have signed a deal and intra-Afghan negotiations are likely to be held soon. The Afghan people are facing a precious opportunity to finally end the four-decade-long war. At the same time, the country is also facing severe challenges. We hope the international community will respect the will of the Afghan people, continue its support for intra-Afghan reconciliation and help Afghanistan realize peace at an early date. We also call on foreign troops stationed in the country to withdraw in an orderly and responsible manner to ensure a stable transition and prevent terrorist organizations from taking advantage of any potential chaos to fester.