Zhang Jianguo calls for joint international efforts to find a vaccine against the new coronavirus
In this interview with Alakhbar, Zhang Jianguo also regrets the stigmatization of China and calls for joint international efforts to find a vaccine against the new coronavirus.
ALAKHBAR: How did China limit the progress of the Covid-19?
Zhang Jianguo: There has been a huge mobilization from across China to stem the epidemic. The most effective way is to isolate people. The spread is very brutal. We must therefore prevent people who test positive from contaminating others. For this reason, the city of Wuhan and neighborhoods in China have been quarantined.
ALAKHBAR: What lessons does China draw from this epidemic?
Zhang Jianguo: You have to react quickly. There was, certainly, a reluctance from the local authorities at the outset. This is what is happening today in European countries. They did not take into account the seriousness of the risk and took action a little late. China has gone to great lengths to gain six weeks of time compared to the rest of the world.
ALAKHBAR: China, accused of creating and concealing the virus. What is your answer ?
Zhang Jianguo: China has adopted a responsible attitude. We have also shown transparency by sharing Chinese doctors’ data, statistics and research results from the start with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other countries. For this reason, in the United States, Germany and France, researchers, especially research institutes, are racing against the clock to find a vaccine.
ALAKHBAR: US President Talks “Chinese Virus”
Zhang Jianguo: Whether the virus is declared in China or elsewhere, you must not stigmatize a country. It is thanks to the efforts of the Chinese authorities, at national, regional and local level, that we are in the process of controlling the spread of the virus. The Chinese government has rejected this stigma on the part of President Trump. Even scientists and researchers in the United States are openly opposed to it and to the rest of the world. Only President Trump and a few people in his administration are spreading the virus directly to China or the city of Wuhan.
ALAKHBAR: Where are we with the vaccine that China is testing?
Zhang Jianguo: China has officially announced that a vaccine is being tested. It will take time. But this is already a good sign. In the United States and in Europe, there are also vaccines in the experimental phase. We must encourage them.
ALAKHBAR: According to Chinese experience, how long will the epidemic last?
Zhang Jianguo: I don’t know. I am not a scientist. But according to some scientists, it will take a few months. Others speak of a few years. But we hope there will soon be a useful and effective vaccine. Scientists in China say that in May the virus will disappear in China. But with the brutal spread to the rest of the world, especially in Europe and the United States, the outcome remains uncertain. In any case if the other countries took the same drastic measures as China, with a strong general mobilization, it would take six weeks to two months to separate from the virus.
ALAKHBAR: On the vaccine, can China compete with the West?
Zhang Jianguo: In all the countries where the epidemic is declared, there is a lot of research on treatment methods, drugs to use, etc. In China, more than 95% of cases have been treated not only with Western medicine but also with traditional Chinese medicine. So it’s a combination of efforts. International cooperation in this area must be encouraged. China is ready to cooperate with other countries. We are not like the United States where President Trump even wanted to monopolize a vaccine that would only be for the Americans. For a shared future of humanity, I think that international cooperation is absolutely necessary. This is the case of China: even if we are in a country under pressure to contain the epidemic and lack medical equipment, we are responding to the demand of countries hit severely by the epidemic, such as France, Italy , Iran, Spain and even the European Union (EU). We send them medical supplies to help them.
ALAKHBAR: How could China help Mauritania against Covid-19?
Zhang Jianguo: First of all, I am in regular and close contact with the Mauritanian authorities to sensitize the Chinese community. Initially, it was feared that infected Chinese people would bring the virus to Mauritania. At the moment this is not the case.
But, we are very vigilant with the Chinese community so that they postpone their date of return to Mauritania as much as possible and, once there, that they respect the preventive measures taken by the Mauritanian authorities in terms of hygiene, gathering, etc.
On the other hand, we have been supplying, for the past few days, a number of documents on this epidemic to the Mauritanian authorities – management, screening method, care, etc. – so that they can study the experience of China.
I also visited the construction site of the infectious disease consultation building at the Nouakchott National Hospital. This building, which is a gift from the Chinese government, has 50 beds. The work should end in late March, according to the initial contract. Due to the declared epidemic in China, workers and engineers have not come in time to finalize this building which the Mauritanian authorities wish to speed up work so that it can serve as a reserve in the fight against epidemic. We are in discussions with the Mauritanian authorities and with the company to see how to finalize the works so that Mauritania can have something more suitable. At the Embassy level, we asked Beijing to see how we can concretely help Mauritania in this context.
ALAKHBAR: Here at the Embassy, aren’t you afraid of the coronavirus?
Zhang Jianguo: You mustn’t panic. So far, I think the measures taken by the Mauritanian authorities have been effective. Panic is even more dangerous than the virus. Don’t panic.