WATCH: New Zealand hopes to lift travel bans on China 'as soon as possible'
WELLINGTON - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday that she hopes New Zealand will lift the travel bans imposed on China amid the novel coronavirus outbreak "as soon as possible" and normalise commerce and people-to-people links.
Speaking at a Chinese New Year celebration at New Zealand Parliament, an event which has been held here for over two decades, Ardern said, "It is my sincere hope that the current precautionary restrictions we have in place can be lifted as soon as possible, and that when they do we work closely to normalise commerce and people to people links."
Ardern said New Zealand acknowledges the significant and sustained measures taken by the Chinese government to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
"I am confident that through cooperation we can both bounce back quickly," she said. "Now, more than ever we must stand strong and support one another, call out any discrimination we see, and ensure we see only compassion and unity."
The prime minister then invited those attending to stand for a moment of silence to express respect for those who have lost their lives to the virus.
Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wu Xi said China is not alone in fighting the war against the epidemic, saying "heads of more than 160 countries and international organisations have shown their support through letters and messages, and the governments and peoples of many countries, including New Zealand, have donated needed supplies."
Wu stressed that virus knows no borders, colours, or races. "A virus is the common enemy of the human society. Confronted with the epidemic, panic and fear will not help, while racism and xenophobia will only make things worse," she said. "The WHO has repeatedly underscored it is not necessary to impose international travel and trade restrictions on China."
"With the international community standing firmly behind China, we believe that no epidemic is invincible," the ambassador said. "Despite the epidemic, China will maintain the momentum of its economic development, strive to achieve its development goals for this year, and continue to firmly move toward its long-term goals."
More than 200 representatives from New Zealand and China participated in the event.