China has asked Germany to remain “cool-headed” about the coronavirus outbreak and maintain normal ties despite the United States and Italy imposing travel bans on people and flights from China.
In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stressed that China hoped that “Germany and the wider global community would stay cool-headed, support China’s outbreak response, maintain normal bilateral exchanges and enhance international cooperation on public health security”, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Li also said he hoped Germany would “facilitate China’s purchase of German medical supplies through commercial channels”, Xinhua reported.
Merkel said Germany would “do what it can” to help China deal with the outbreak, adding that Germany had followed the development of the epidemic closely and in a “cautious” approach.
“[Germany] has worked to enhance intra-European Union coordination, and refrained from imposing excessive restrictions,” she said, according to Xinhua.
“Germany is ready to strengthen cooperation with China on epidemic control, continue to provide China with assistance in medical supplies, and do what it can to support China in defeating the epidemic.”
China has accused the US and Italy of overreacting by barring Chinese travellers and flights from entry.
Germany will take over the presidency of the EU in the second half of this year and Merkel has vowed to put Europe-China relations at the forefront of its agenda.
The phone call between Merkel and Li came as Germany recorded 14 confirmed cases and planned to fly more of its citizens out of the outbreak’s epicentre in Hubei province.
In all, 27 foreigners in China had been infected with the virus, the foreign ministry said.
A total of 22 foreign nationals were being treated; another two people, including an American, had died; and three others had been discharged, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
The Japanese foreign ministry said that a Japanese citizen who was suspected of being infected with the virus died in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Britain declared that the new coronavirus posed a serious and imminent threat to public health, giving the government extra powers to isolate those suspected of being infected.
The announcement came as four more patients tested positive for the new coronavirus, taking the total number of cases to eight.
British nationals who have been flown back from Wuhan are being quarantined for 14 days.
British health authorities have also designated two new isolation facilities in Liverpool and Milton Keynes.
“We are strengthening our regulations so we can keep individuals in supported isolation for their own safety and if public health professionals consider they may be at risk of spreading the virus to other members of the public,” a department spokesman said.
Despite the growing number of cases in countries like Germany and Britain, health experts in Europe said the situation was not getting out of control.
Pasi Penttinen, an immunisation specialist at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said “we do not currently see an increasing trend in the numbers of cases” in the European Union and European Economic Area.
This might reflect the “impact of the unprecedented measures Chinese authorities have taken and the increasing limitations to air travel from China”, he said.
Imported cases with mild acute respiratory symptoms might have been missed in the past weeks, so further detection of such cases could occur in the coming days and weeks, Penttinen added.
Additional reporting by Keegan Elmer
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