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Minister Ma Hui Gives Live Interview on Sky News' News Hour

On 6 April, Minister Ma Hui gave live interview via zoom online on Sky News' The News Hour with Mark Austin regarding China's fight against the Covid-19 outbreak.

When answering questions about the allegation that "China has not been honest or open about what was happening in the early stage of the epidemic in Wuhan", which might "prevent the other countries from responding in time", Minister Ma stressed that the Chinese government had been very open, transparent and responsible in sharing the information with WHO and international community, including the US and the UK. "There is no such thing as downplaying the outbreak. Covid-19 is a new virus and it takes time and a scientific process to define it. At the end of December 2019, when cases of pneumonia with unknown causes were reported, Wuhan Health Commission, Hubei Health Commission, Hubei Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China's National Health Commission and Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention worked very hard to define this virus. During this period, there was limited evidence of human-to-human transmission. Afterwards, a national senior expert group from the National Health Commission led by the most well-known respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan was sent to Wuhan to conduct an investigation, and finally confirmed that there was a human-to-human transmission", said Ma.

Regarding whether Dr. Li Wenliang was unfairly treated for raising the alarm, Ma expressed his surprise that Western media kept calling Li the "whistle blower". He said, "Dr. Li was not "the whistle blower". The person who first reported on possible virus outbreak to the Chinese government is Dr. Zhang Jixian, Director of ICU at Hubei Hospital of Chinese and Western Medicine. Upon her advice, regional governments of Wuhan and Hubei, and China's Central Government quickly took action. Dr. Li is not a respiratory doctor but an ophthalmologist. And when he was sharing incomplete information via WeChat, the governments at all levels had already taken actions to identify the virus. Also, Dr. Li was not arrested, and the admonition he had received was later revoked."

When asked about why the Chinese Government closed the road from Hubei Province to the rest of China at around the Chinese New Year but kept flights open from China to places like London, Ma said, "On the one hand, after the lockdown of Wuhan, Hubei authorities stopped issuing passports for local residents to discourage overseas travel. The Chinese government warned against overseas travel, unless it was essential. On the other hand, governments of other countries could have taken actions such as taking temperature and virus infection testing. Therefore, blaming China for the inaction of other governments is unacceptable."

In response to the questions of whether the virus came from a virology lab in Wuhan and whether China prepared to reopen the wet markets, Ma said, "The exact origin of the virus has not been determined yet. Initially, it was thought that the virus might have come from the wet market in Wuhan, because some of the patients were associated with the market. But it is equally true that some of the patients had no contact with the wet market. Many scientists have published joint academic papers saying that the virus was the product of the nature, so they have ruled out the possibility of a virus engineered in a lab in any country of the world."

"The origin of the virus should be determined by professionals like scientists and doctors. Minister Ma also noted that, contrary to what UK media has hyped up, the wet market in Wuhan, in fact, remains closed, waiting for the government's notice for reopening. The Chinese parliament has also adopted a decision to ban illegal wildlife trade and the consumption of the meats of wild animals, so as to safeguard people's life and health. The law enforcement departments at different levels will enforce that decision."

Regarding the accuracy of published death toll in China, Ma said, "At the moment, China's official figure of lives lost to Covid-19 stands at 3331. China has been open, transparent and responsible in sharing information with the world. WHO has sent two joint teams of experts to China and they believe that China's figures and statistics are credible. However, those who repeatedly blame China for 'lying about the figure' have never produced any evidence. Therefore, it is better to rely on the expert advice of WHO rather than making up unwarranted accusations. In face of this pandemic, all parties should be working together in solidarity rather than playing the game of blame and spreading disinformation."

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