New Zealand Ambassador to China Clare Fearnley underscored the importance of working together in addressing the common threat posed by COVID-19 during a recent interview with China.org.cn.
"International cooperation is absolutely vital in combating COVID-19," Fearnley said. "While it's understandable that each country would prioritize the protection of its own people's health, no one can really win the battle against the global pandemic alone."
The ambassador continued, "We must support each other, such as through sharing information and best practice, maintaining free flow of vital supplies, looking after each other's nationals unable to return home due to travel restrictions [and] coordinating measures of international impact."
Clearly, no country faces the COVID-19 challenge alone, said the ambassador.
A total of 1,346,299 cases and 74,679 deaths have been recorded globally as of 8:39 a.m. Beijing Time on April 7, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
On the international level, now is the time that we really need to help out those countries that are particularly vulnerable to the epidemic, she underlined.
Fearnley stressed, "We oppose any form of xenophobia and discrimination." "As is commonly said, 'Viruses don't discriminate, and nor should we'," she urged.
The ambassador added that one of the messages that the New Zealand government has been emphasizing during the pandemic is the need to "be kind," which is also a way of uniting against the virus.
She believes that on the individual level, everyone can make a difference by checking-in on others, especially the elderly and vulnerable. "You can look after anyone that needs help and drop supplies to those who need it – while keeping the social distancing requirement."
She noted, "We saw many acts of great kindness shown during China's shutdown and now, in New Zealand, less than a week into our shutdown, we're seeing a spirit of kindness shown too."
This is captured in the Maori term "manaakitanga," which means showing kindness, generosity and support for one another, Fearnley said.
New Zealand, which had reported 943 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of 9 a.m., April 7, declared a state of national emergency on March 25, giving authorities more powers to curb COVID-19 and reduce its impact.
According to the ambassador, the country also moved into Level 4 – the highest level on its pandemic alert system – at 11:59 p.m. on March 25, signaling a kind of a national "lockdown" which requires anyone not involved in essential work to isolate at home. Educational facilities are now closed; events and gatherings are cancelled; businesses are closed, except for those providing essential services and lifeline utilities; and New Zealanders entering the country must undergo strict measures to isolate or quarantine.
Bilateral support and cooperation
New Zealand stands with China and lent a helping hand to the country when it was working to bring the COVID-19 outbreak under control at home.
In February, the New Zealand government donated and delivered medical supplies to Wuhan, facilitated by the Hubei Charity Federation, Fearnley told China.org.cn. "New Zealand communities and our private sector have made donations of medical supplies, funds and food for those in need in Hubei province as well."
"New Zealand expresses its continued solidarity with China as it focuses on overcoming the challenges of the virus and turning the corner to economic recovery," the ambassador continued. "For example, Air New Zealand is moving freight between our two countries to ensure vital goods such as medical supplies and food continue to flow in a two-way exchange."
The ambassador noted that the country has also been exchanging experiences with relevant Chinese departments in the fight against COVID-19.
As the domestic situation continues to improve and various sectors begin to resume work and production, China, in turn, has started to offer assistance wherever it can to many other countries, as well as international and regional organizations such as the WHO and African Union.
Fearnley said that New Zealand recognizes the efforts being taken by the Chinese government to limit the spread of the virus.
"I have been personally impressed by the resolve with which China has worked to contain the COVID-19 epidemic, including as two new hospitals were built from scratch and thousands of medical personnel were deployed to Hubei province."
"I recognize that China's domestic efforts are a significant contribution to regional and global well-being," Fearnley commented.
"In addition to government measures, we have also seen moving actions of many Chinese frontline health and other workers as well as groups and individuals during the epidemic," she noted. "This is now being replicated around the world. We all owe a vote of respect to our front-line workers."