The new Ambassador-designate of the People's Republic of China to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong. Photo: Supplied/Embassy of China in South Africa
The new Ambassador-designate of the People's Republic of China to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong. Photo: Supplied/Embassy of China in South Africa

COVID-19 virus Source Tracing a matter of science, solidarity in cooperation is the key to victory

By Time of article published Jan 25, 2021

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The new Ambassador-designate of the People's Republic of China to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong. Photo: Supplied/Embassy of China in South Africa

Chen Xiaodong

As is known to all, source tracing of viruses including COVID-19 is a complex and serious scientific issue that need to be conducted through scientific research and cooperation by scientists on a global scale.

According to the WHO, virus source tracing is a dynamic process that involves multiple countries and regions.

Since the start of COVID-19, China has maintained close communication and cooperation with the WHO, and relevant countries on global source tracing in an open, transparent and responsible manner. Currently, a WHO expert team with members from the international community is in China to exchange information with the Chinese side regarding science cooperation concerning the origin of COVID-19.

The WHO team also has plans for similar missions to other countries and regions.

China was the first country in the world to report COVID-19, but being the first to report is different from being the source. In May 2020, Richard Horton, Editor-In-Chief of The Lancet, a leading international medical journal, said in an interview that blaming China for the origins of the pandemic is neither true nor helpful.

Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, has made it clear that although COVID- 19 was first reported in Wuhan, it does not necessarily mean that Wuhan is where the virus spread from animals to humans. He stressed that more data and evidence needed to be collected to infer where the original species barrier breach took place, and that it is definitely too early to come to a conclusion on exactly where the virus started.

There are recent reports in the UK, Australia, and Italy that suggest COVID-19 outbreaks had already taken place in many places around the world by the fall of 2019. Similar reports are also increasingly pointing to earlier time-frames.

The international science community has agreed that COVID-19 is a natural disaster that can occur in any country or region.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has long classified outbreaks of epidemic diseases, plant or animal contagion and extensive infestation as natural hazards. The International Emergencies Database (EM-DA) suggests that there were nearly 691 human epidemics on the five continents between 1975-2001 alone.

Based on lessons learnt from the naming of past epidemics such as the African Swine Fever and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, the WHO reaffirmed in 2015, that virus naming may not be associated with specific countries or regions.

Nature, the authoritative international journal, has also publicly apologized for erroneously linking COVID-19 with Wuhan and China, and called for avoiding the association of viruses with specific regions or countries.

Recently, Professor Salim Karim, Chairperson of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, also publicly stated that one should not call the virus or variant by its country, but by its name.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to COVID-19 prevention and control. China has made important contributions to the global fight against the virus by following science, adopting timely response measures, and effectively cutting transmission.

According to the journal Science, the above measures prevented more than 700,000 infections across China.

South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has also stated publicly on many occasions that since the outbreak in South Africa in March last year, all confirmed COVID19 cases in South Africa were imported from Europe and the United States, and none of them came from China.

As comrades and brothers of South Africa, the Chinese government and people have always firmly supported the South African government and people in their efforts to fight the virus. We have provided and will continue to provide assistance to South Africa within our capacity, to actively share our experience in COVID-19 response, and to do our utmost to support South Africa in the fight against the pandemic.

The fourth batch of COVID-19 response supplies worth R20 million donated by the Chinese government including nucleic acid extraction kits for 360,000 tests arrived at OR Tambo International Airport in the early morning of January 23rd. This batch is believed to give a new boost to South Africa’s anti-pandemic efforts. China is actively discussing vaccine cooperation with South Africa through bilateral and other channels. We hope that Chinese vaccines will benefit the South African people as soon as possible.

Viruses respect no borders and no race. They are the common enemy of humankind. Solidarity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons in the fight against the virus. It is important for all countries in the world to respect facts and science, and work together to emerge victorious from this rare catastrophe in human history. Let us all work together to defeat COVID-19 as quickly as possible and to move forward the building of a global community of health for all as well as a community with a shared future for humankind.

Chen Xiaodong is the ambassador of China to South Africa

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