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China envoy urges Seoul to follow WHO advice on virus response

New Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming speaks in a press conference about the Chinese government’s stance on the coronavirus outbreak, at the Chinese Embassy in central Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
New Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming speaks in a press conference about the Chinese government’s stance on the coronavirus outbreak, at the Chinese Embassy in central Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

New Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming on Tuesday called on Seoul to follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations on handling the new coronavirus, as Korea began barring entry of noncitizens who have visited China’s virus-hit Hubei province.

“I will not assess (Seoul’s measure). … But an international and scientific method would be to follow the WHO’s recommendation,” said Xing in a press conference at the Chinese Embassy in central Seoul, referring to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ stance that travel and entry bans are “unnecessary.”

“South Korea and China are friendly neighbors with close people-to-people ties. … It would be much appreciated if (both countries) protect their citizens all the while taking a scientific approach to help each other in the other person’s shoes,” Xing added.

The press conference came as Korea began barring entry to foreigners who have been to Hubei province in the past two weeks.

Koreans have continued to demand a stricter approach, such as widening the entry ban to all of China.

Seoul has confirmed 16 cases of the virus, which originated from Wuhan in Hubei province. As of Wednesday, 61 people were under observation for possible infection.

According to Xing, the WHO’s declaration of the outbreak as an international emergency was aimed at protecting countries unable to manage the virus due to a “weak system.” It was not a decision made due to the UN agency’s distrust in Beijing.

Amid intensifying concerns over the new coronavirus, the press conference was held for Xing -- who arrived in Seoul last week -- to convey the Chinese government’s stance on the situation. It is unconventional for a top diplomat to hold a media event before presenting credentials to the host country.

Xing said the Chinese government is focusing on five areas: making all-out efforts to contain the virus; preventing the virus from spreading through strict quarantine measures; forming a team of scientists and researchers to work on a vaccine; providing medical supplies and necessities; and sharing information with countries in a transparent manner.

As of Tuesday afternoon, China had over 20,000 cases of the novel virus and over 420 deaths. In Hubei provincealone, the epicenter of the outbreak, 64 people have died and 2,345 cases were newly confirmed Tuesday, marking the biggest daily increase in deaths since the novel virus was first detected in late December.

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)
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