Coronavirus: China working with Ireland to help combat virus

On 24 March, Ambassador He was interviewed by the Times on the China-Ireland cooperation in combating COVID-19. Here is the full report published on the Times:


There has been “close co-operation” between the Irish and Chinese governments on Covid-19 since the beginning of last month, the country’s ambassador to Ireland said.

The coronavirus began in the Chinese city of Wuhan on December 31 before spreading to Japan, South Korea and Thailand. The first known case was diagnosed in Ireland on February 29.

He Xiangdong, the Chinese ambassador to Ireland, backed the new measures introduced today and said Ireland should not be afraid of the word lockdown as every person staying home is a “soldier” in the “war” against Covid-19.

"In early February I initiated a meeting between myself with officials in the HSE and officials in public health and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, to exchange ideas. We discussed how to strengthen the information sharing between China and Ireland,” Mr He told The Times.

He said last week he had a call with the Simon Harris, the health minister, and also had discussions with Simon Coveney, the minister of foreign affairs and trade.

The Chinese were keeping the HSE informed of the testing and treatment of Covid-19 in China.

Mr He added that the HSE, the IDA and the Department of Foreign Affairs were involved in discussions around procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.

He said the embassy was co-ordinating Chinese companies to donate PPE to Ireland. Huawei and the Bank of China were two such organisations who would be making the donations, he said. The first batch of PPE and ventilators will arrive from China by the end of this week.

Mr He also said that China wanted to share its experience with the rest of the world but also to learn from the rest of the world since the coronavirus is a new disease.

"Everybody is on the same curve in terms of learning about the disease. Since we are the first ones to face the disease, we have some experience we want to share with Ireland,” he said.

The ambassador said that a “whole of society” approach was needed to tackle the virus. “Every country needs to find a solution, according to their different cultures, histories and social activities. But this is an epidemic, a pandemic. The underlying principles or underlying methods will be the same. Do everything to break the transmission chain, and to find out the cases and isolate the patients or those infected. The basic principles are the same.

"The most important thing, from a medical perspective, is do everything early; testing, tracing and isolating. That’s the most important thing. It needs the whole of society to be mobilised. Everyone needs to know the basic information about the virus and how to protect individuals.”

He agreed with the more stringent measures the Irish government put in place from today, saying it “required the co-operation of every individual of society” to combat the virus.

Mr He said he had heard of some racism against the Chinese community in Ireland when the virus was first reported on, but added that he believed that this was only a few “isolated incidents”.

"Most of the Irish community are very friendly to the Chinese community here,” he added.

Mr He also defended the wet markets in Wuhan, where it is believed that the virus started. “The origin of the virus is in nature, it’s not in the market itself, the market is maybe one of the starting points of the virus,” he said.

He acknowledged that there was some scepticism about the figures on the number of people who were infected with the virus in China.

"If you look at the reality in China, there has been a drastic decline of newly confirmed cases in China in the past few days. The number of newly confirmed cases has declined to almost zero. Now we are facing a new challenge of imported cases, of people travelling into China,” he said.

The Chinese ambassador to France last week posted a number of tweets that appeared to imply that the virus originated in the United States.

Mr He said: “I think the origin of the virus needs to be investigated and resolved by the scientists. It’s not an issue to be talked and resolved by ordinary people like politicians. It’s an issue of science.”