China's efforts to control the deadly outbreak of a new coronavirus "are working", Beijing's top diplomat said on Thursday, attributing an easing in new cases to his country's "forceful action" against the illness.
Speaking in Laos after talks with peers from the 10 Southeast Asian (Asean) countries, Wangi Yi said the outbreak was "controllable and curable" despite the global panic it has sparked.
"China is not only protecting its own people but also the rest of the world," he told the summit in Vientiane, referencing a recent sharp drop in new cases of the virus inside China, where it has killed more than 2,100 people.
The hastily-convened summit with Asean neighbours comes as a region dependent on the flow of Chinese goods and tourists faces a steep bill following restrictions on movement from China.
The Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam have restricted flights from mainland China and suspended visa-free arrivals as health screening ramps up at entry points.
Thailand, which has imposed no such restrictions, reported a 90 percent slump in arrivals from the mainland this month, a gut punch to an already beleaguered tourist sector which makes up nearly a fifth of the economy.
China sees Asean as its backyard and has ramped up economic, diplomatic and cultural influence over recent years with billions of dollars of investment, tourist outflows and a bigger presence at regional summits.
Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr thanked China for its "unprecedented domestic measures and quick action" – apparently referring to the lockdowns of several large cities as the virus billowed out.
But he recognised the "massively detrimental" economic impact of the disease, which has constricted global trade and tourism vital to many Southeast Asian economies. (AFP)
China protecting own people, and the world: Wang Yi
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