The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Wednesday that China deserves “gratitude and respect” from the international community for their efforts to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak within the country’s borders.
Chinese state propaganda outlet Global Times reported that during a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday, Tedros praised China for the “extraordinary steps it has taken to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.”
“The continued increase in cases and the evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China are of course both deeply concerning,” said Tedros.
“Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak,” he continued. “For that, China deserves our gratitude and respect … China is implementing very serious measures and we cannot ask for more.”
Tedros made the remarks following his visit to Beijing for a meeting with Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, on whom he lavished praise over his “very rare” levels of leadership.
“I was very encouraged and impressed by the president’s detailed knowledge of the outbreak and his personal involvement in the outbreak,” he continued. “This was for me a very rare leadership.”
The 54-year-old former Ethiopian foreign and health minister also praised China’s “transparency,” a quality rarely attributed to the Chinese communist state known for its high levels of censorship, cover-ups, and the spread of misinformation.
“China has been completely committed to transparency, both internally and externally, and has agreed to work with other countries that need support,” he declared, pushing back against accusations from some figures that Beijing may be playing down the numbers of those infected in order to reduce international concern and its potential knock-on effect to the Chinese economy.
“The level of commitment (of the leadership) in China is incredible; I will praise China again and again, because its actions actually helped in reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus to other countries … we shall tell the truth and that’s the truth,” he concluded.
Tedros’s claims were seemingly supported by the head of WHO health emergencies programs, Dr. Mike Ryan, who accompanied Tedros on his recent visit to China, declaring that authorities there had “a laser focus” on stopping the outbreak.
“We are at an important juncture in this event. We believe these chains of transmission can still be interrupted,” Ryan said. “They are taking extraordinary measures in the face of what is an extraordinary challenge.”
The WHO is expected to make a decision Thursday on whether to declare the outbreak an international health emergency.
According to the latest figures, at least 7344 have contracted the virus while 144 have died as a result. Sporadic cases of the virus have also been reported in 20 other countries, including Australia, France, and Canada, with many airlines suspending flights to and from China while governments including the U.S. and the U.K have issued advisories against visiting China.
“The epidemic is a demon and we cannot let this demon hide,” Xi Jinping said this week. “The Chinese government has always adopted an open, transparent and responsible attitude to the timely release of information on the epidemic, domestically and to other countries.”