China's ambassador in South Africa Lin Songtian says measures are in place to ensure that suspected cases of the deadly coronavirus on the continent do not spread to South Africa.
"My eye is open on the continent, South Africa and China have been in contact and I assure you there are measures in place to ensure that the virus does not cross the border."
He briefed the media at the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria on Monday. Songtian was responding to a query on the suspected case of the coronavirus in Botswana, which borders South Africa.
On Friday, News24 reported that Botswana had registered its first suspected case of the coronavirus at Gaborone's Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.
This comes after a passenger travelling from China arrived at the airport on an Ethiopian Airways flight. To date, there is no confirmed case of the virus in the country, but South Africa remains on high alert after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it a global health emergency on Thursday night.
"If there was any, we would have been able to confirm a diagnosis as we have the facilities to do so," Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize previously said on Friday morning following the WHO announcement.
Songtian further took the opportunity to assure South Africans living in China that "they are safe".
"Foreign nationals in China are our friends, we have hospitals in place and enough supplies.
"Trust China, give the hand to us – give us the confidence and strength and trust that you are safe, the system is working," he said.
While Songtian could not confirm how many Chinese nationals were currently in South Africa, he clarified that those who travelled to China for the holidays had been requested "to stay there for now".
According to the ambassador, as of Monday, 17 205 cases of the coronavirus, 21 558 suspected cases and 361 deaths have been reported in China.
"Fortunately, by now 475 patients have been cured and left the hospitals back home," he added.
Globally, however, there are 146 confirmed cases. It included 20 in Japan, 19 in Thailand, 18 in Singapore, 15 in the Republic of Korea, 12 in Australia and eight each in Malaysia, the United States and Germany. There were also seven cases in Vietnam, six in France, five in the United Arab Emirates, four in Canada, two each in Italy, the United Kingdom, Russia, the Philippines and India.
One case each were also reported in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Finland, Spain and Sweden.
"No confirmed case has ever been reported in Africa to date," the ambassador confirmed.
"The source of the virus is yet to be discovered, but the Chinese government wishes to assure citizens and the world that it has fully updated the globe on the epidemic and it continues to work and fight against the spread of the virus.
"With the extensive understanding and support of the Chinese people and the international communities, the systems, resources and capacity of China are more and strong enough to win the battle against the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the coming weeks," he said.