China says UK virus advice to citizens an 'overreaction'

China says UK virus advice to citizens an 'overreaction'

People wearing face masks are pictured in London
People wearing face masks are pictured in London, Britain Jan 31, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Simon Dawson)

LONDON: Beijing's ambassador to London on Thursday (Feb 6) said Britain's advice for its nationals to leave China because of the novel coronavirus outbreak was an unhelpful "overreaction" and urged the policy to be reversed.

Liu Xiaoming said Beijing had told the UK the move was not "a good idea" and instead called for a more measured approach.

On Tuesday the British Foreign Office advised UK nationals to leave China "if they can" to minimise their risk of exposure to the coronavirus, following similar advice by the United States.

"I hope the British government ... will take an objective, cool-headed view of what is going on in China," Liu said at a press conference at the Chinese embassy in London.

"We did tell them overreaction is not helpful. We don't think there should be such a panic," he added of the diplomatic measures.

"We should support each other, rather than to weaken the other's efforts."

Britain on Thursday confirmed its third case of the SARS-like virus which has so far killed at least 563 people and sparked global alarm as it spreads around the world.

Liu mounted a defence of China's response to the epidemic, insisting it was "controllable, preventable and curable".

He said London had vowed to follow the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) in its warning to British citizens there.

"We asked them to take (the) advice of (the) WHO to make a reasonable response, do not overreact.

"It seems to me the facts are not entirely squared, the words do not match with the deeds," he added.

- US flu 'more serious' -

Meanwhile it emerged Boris Johnson's father relayed that Chinese officials were concerned that the British prime minister had not sent a personal message of support to the country's leaders.

The comments came to light after Stanley Johnson met Liu to discuss environmental matters and emailed feedback to British officials but accidentally included someone at the BBC in the message.

A spokesman for the prime minister said Stanley Johnson attended the meeting as a private citizen and was not acting for the government.

He added: "We have been in close contact with the Chinese authorities from the beginning of the outbreak and the foreign secretary and the national security adviser have both spoken to their counterparts in the last week."

Liu insisted communications with Johnson were "good" and that he had recently met him at a Chinese new year reception at Downing Street.

"He told me he's still committed to the golden years of China-UK relations," the ambassador added.

However, Liu accused some US politicians of trying to "take advantage" of the situation "for political gains", while arguing the common flu virus in the US was "more serious" than the coronavirus.

"In the United States more than 19 million people have fallen ill with a flu so far this season, with a death toll being 10,000," Liu said.

"This is more serious than coronavirus infection."

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Source: AFP/nh

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