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Nigerians defy Coronavirus scare, maintain steady demand for Chinese Visas

 …As death toll hits over 1,000, confirmed cases exceed 42,000

Despite the outbreak of the Coronavirus epidemic in China, Nigerian businessmen and others have maintained their steady demand for Chinese visas for business trips and other visits to China as the virus appears not to deter them even as death toll hit 908 and confirmed cases at 40,171.

Political and Information Officer of the Chinese Embassy, Sun Saixiong, made this known to BusinessDay on Monday. Saixiong noted that the visa applications and issuance of visas by the embassy have not changed. “We have not noticed anything abnormal taking place, everything is going normal as before and according to the information provided by our consular section, we have not noticed any decline in the application of the number visas,” he added.

Saixiong said further that the trade between Nigeria and China countries has not in any way been affected   by the virus, saying “so far so good everything remains normal in terms of China -Nigeria trade relations.”

Trade between Nigeria and China reached $8.6 billion in the first half of 2019, according to data released by Chinese Consul-General in Nigeria, Chu Maoming.

Saixiong disclosed that although some 60 Nigerians living in the epicentre of the disease (Wuhan) had requested the Nigerian government to evacuate them, the Nigerian government after consulting with the House of Representatives, turned down the proposal.   This according to Saixiong is because they think the medical situation is much better in China as the China doctors have more experience in treating the virus.

He also pointed that bringing the Nigerians back home carries a risk that they might bring the virus into Nigeria where it is not been discovered yet. He added that according to recommendation from the World Health Organisation, WHO, the best way to control the disease is for people to stay where they are and to take proper protection.

He disclosed that the Chinese National Health Commission had received 40,171 reports of confirmed cases and 908 deaths on the Chinese mainland, and in all 3,281 patients had been cured and discharged from hospital. There still remained 23,589 suspected cases, he said.

He stressed that so far, 187,518 who have been identified as having had close contact with infected patients   are now under medical observation. He said further that confirmed cases outside the epicentre keep dropping for five consecutive days.

Also speaking to BusinessDay, the Director of Centre for China Studies (CCS), Charles Onunaiju, said although the virus may cause mild slowdown in trade, he does not envisage any major disruption in the trade relations between both countries.

“So despite the obvious challenge posed by the outbreak of this strange disease, I can assure you that Nigerian –China relations is still at its best. No major disruption is expected and there is no doubts that trade will flow again.

“The facts is that some Nigerian businessmen travelling to China may have to delay their trips a little while. There has to be some implication with late shipments and arrivals, but in the overall, these are things that could be fixed. So that will not create any major disruption in the bilateral trade relations between Nigeria and China,” he said.

He explained that China has taken measures to mitigate the outcome and more importantly to confront this disease to ensure that it does last long and whatever impact it has will be fleeting and not seriously challenging the global economy.

He said further that China has done well to ensure that the Coronavirus does not become a global pandemic, adding that China has taken very responsible action to mitigate the spread and urged Nigerians not to panic.

“Our own health authorities have promised to put in effective measures to screen people arriving in Nigeria and in my view there is absolutely no reason to panic. And for us this is the time to stand in solidarity with China just like if you remember when the Ebola virus hit Africa, China stood with us.  China sent medical supply and medical personnel to help us in combatting Ebola,” he said.


Innocent Odoh, Abuja

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