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Envoy: China-US mutual support needed right now

By Zhao Huanxin in Washington and Pan Mengqi in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2020-04-07 02:42
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File photo: Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the US. [Photo/Agencies]

Beijing's top envoy in Washington expressed solidarity on Monday with people in the United States, saying China is doing its best to support the US and other countries in their battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In the fight against the virus, we stand together with the people of New York and America," Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the US, said in an opinion piece published in The New York Times on Sunday.

"We are facilitating the US government's purchase of personal protective equipment made in China."

Cui's comments echoed remarks made on Friday by US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, who said his embassy was "working closely" with Chinese government officials to facilitate the shipment of crucial supplies of protective equipment from China.

In addition, Branstad said, "No one country can fight this battle alone, and I am confident that our two countries will continue to find ways to jointly cooperate to combat this common enemy that threatens the lives of all of us."

In his opinion piece, Cui conceded that there has been "unpleasant talk" between the two nations about the disease. He apparently was referring to the politicizing of the pandemic issue and the blame game regarding origin of the virus.

"But this is not the time for finger-pointing," he said. "This is a time for solidarity, collaboration and mutual support."

The Chinese embassy in the US said on Monday that it had conducted a survey regarding arrangements for charter flights to bring home Chinese students studying abroad, and a decision was taken to give priority to primary and secondary school students.

According to the announcement on the embassy's website, primary and secondary Chinese students younger than age 18 who have stayed in the US either short- or long-term without their parents are now able to register for flights home.

Around 1.6 million Chinese students are studying abroad, and 410,000 of them are in the US, according to the Ministry of Education. An earlier survey found that over 60 percent of the Chinese students in the US would like to return immediately due to the growing number of infections reported in the US.

With summer vacation approaching, it is likely that an increasing number of Chinese students would like to come home, the embassy said.

The US reported more than 330,000 infections, with the death toll creeping toward 10,000 on Sunday.

US President Donald Trump has warned the country to brace for a "horrific" next few weeks.

"The next week and a half, two weeks, I think they're going to be very difficult," Trump said.

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned on Sunday, "This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment."

Trump, who made his remark during the White House Coronavirus Task Force news briefing, also said that by Tuesday, 3,000 military and public health workers would be deployed across the nation to cope with the pandemic.

The federal government will send around 600,000 N95 respirator masks on Monday to the state of New York, the national epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

The US also is stepping up the development of treatments for COVID-19 patients, including experimenting with the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and blood-related therapies.

At the same briefing, US Vice-President Mike Pence said hydroxychloroquine will be used in a trial covering 3,000 patients at a hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and the results will be tracked in a formal study.

Last week, Trump said hydroxychloroquine was being administered to 1,100 patients in New York along with the antibiotic azithromycin.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the White House briefing on Saturday that there was no "definitive information to be able to make any comment" on whether hydroxychloroquine can be effective in treating the novel coronavirus.

Fauci also said on Sunday that it is possible that COVID-19 will stick around.

"Unless we get this globally under control, there is a very good chance that it'll assume a seasonal nature," Fauci told CBS' Face The Nation. "Hopefully, if in fact we do see that resurgence, we will have interventions that we did not have in the beginning of the situation that we're in right now," he said.

Fauci said he expected new cases to escalate this week, with the national peak eight to nine days away. When new cases start to stabilize, as they have in New York, it is "the first sign of that plateau and coming down", Fauci said.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper defended the Navy's decision to remove the commander of a coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier, who was reported on Sunday to have tested positive for the virus, as the number of the infected crew members on board surpassed 150.

Captain Brett Crozier started showing symptoms of the virus before he was relieved of his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday, and he has tested positive, The New York Times reported, citing two of Crozier's Naval Academy classmates.

Meanwhile, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York has tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the US or a tiger anywhere, federal officials and the zoo said on Sunday.

The finding raises new questions about transmission of the virus in animals. The US Department of Agriculture, which confirmed the tiger's test result at its veterinary lab, said there were no known cases of the virus in US pets or livestock.

"There doesn't appear to be, at this time, any evidence that suggests that the animals can spread the virus to people or that they can be a source of the infection in the United States," Jane Rooney, a veterinarian and USDA official, said in an interview.

William Hennelly in New York and Xinhua contributed to this story.

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