The COVID-19 outbreak is now accelerating across the African continent, with confirmed cases in the vast majority of African countries and clusters of cases and community transmission in many places, putting further strain on already fragile public health systems. To date, Botswana has been doing well in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus with a relatively low number of confirmed cases. Consolidating this hard-won pandemic control achievement is the priority now.
Over the past three months, China has fought hard and made great sacrifices to bring the outbreak under control domestically. Therefore, we are fully aware of the difficulties in fighting the pandemic and share the pain of Africa and its people. We will not forget that during China’s most difficult time, H.E. President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi and the Botswana leadership sent letters and messages of condolences to the Chinese people and expressed solidarity and appreciation for China’s anti-pandemic measures. Every day, friends in Botswana gave thumbs-up or comments on the embassy’s Facebook page and my personal Twitter account, expressing your confidence in China’s victory over the pandemic. Students at the Confucius Institute at the University of Botswana shouted “Stay Strong, Wuhan!” in Chinese. We will always remember and cherish this friendship. Now we are sincerely returning your kindness and going through the difficulties with you.
Despite the arduous task of fighting the pandemic, China has supported the anti-pandemic efforts of African countries by actively sharing its experience with Africa and providing anti-pandemic materials to Africa. Chinese health experts from relevant fields have held a series of video conferences to introduce China’s experience in fighting the pandemic to Botswana. As the first country to donate medical supplies to Botswana, China has delivered the first batch of emergency materials such as masks, protective suits and thermometers. The second batch in much larger quantities is also on the way.
In the meantime, Chinese local governments and companies are also taking actions in support of Africa. Last week, medical materials donated by China’s Shandong Province, where the city of Tai’an is a sister city with Francistown, arrived in Gaborone and were handed over to the Botswana government. The Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation have also donated two batches of protective equipment. The Chinese citizens and enterprises in Botswana, while adhering to the government’s lockdown regulations and practising voluntary isolation on arrival for 14 days, also took the initiative to donate to the COVID-19 Relief Fund and local communities to show solidarity with their second hometown.
In the face of the outbreak, the Botswana government, like the Chinese government, has put people first and attached great importance to the prevention and control of the pandemic. Very often I get a text message from the Ministry of Health and Wellness saying, “Please follow the rules to stay at home, to protect you and your loved ones.” I was particularly moved by the fact that the people of Botswana, who are very sociable by nature, followed the advice of pandemic prevention experts and voluntarily isolated themselves at home. This demonstrates the core elements in the fight against the pandemic — science and unity. Indeed, in the face of a pandemic, political manipulation and recriminations that do not respect facts and science only make things worse. Only unity and cooperation can help us defeat the virus at an early date.
The pandemic once again proves that humanity is a community with a shared future. Pandemics like this happened before, are happening now and will happen again. In 2014, after the outbreak of Ebola in three West African countries, the Chinese government took the lead in helping African countries and people fight the pandemic. As the Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone at that time, I had the honor to coordinate and command the joint fight against the pandemic, and witnessed the profound brotherhood between China and Africa.
China and Africa are standing firmly together during the current pandemic. China will continue to cooperate with African countries, including Botswana, to strengthen cooperation on pandemic prevention and control, provide assistance within our capacity, firmly safeguard the lives, health and security of the two peoples, and work together to build an even closer China-Africa community with a shared future.
(This article was first published on China Daily Global Edition)