During a recent discussion with CBBC members, Dame Barbara provided expert insights and took the opportunity to detail The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO’s) response to COVID-19, introducing the three key phases to the FCO’s work in the face of the pandemic: humanitarian evacuations and the provision and sourcing of aid; staff drawdown and the activation of remote working operations; and procurement of ventilators and other associated essential medical equipment, such as gloves.
Dame Barbara said the atmosphere in China is gradually getting back to business, and normalcy is being restored step-by-step. However, some stringent restrictions remain in place, and there are concerns around a second wave of the virus resurfacing in China.
The pandemic has also raised questions about China’s economic recovery, and what this means for UK-China relations. She revealed that UK-China communications have remained strong throughout this challenging time. Boris Johnson and Xi Jinping have undertaken two phone calls during the crisis, and other key UK and Chinese ministers have also been in frequent communication.
There is plenty of scope to build upon momentum in rebooting the economy, as well as UK-China trade and collaboration
Indeed, Dame Barbara expressed that communication, collaboration and coordination will remain key to overcoming the disruption and loss caused by COVID-19. Beyond current crisis talks, the UK should keep an eye on opportunities for long-term cooperation between itself and China. There is plenty of scope to build upon momentum in rebooting the economy, as well as UK-China trade and collaboration. In particular, the Department for International Trade will offer special support to Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and British importers and exporters to China.
Beyond bilateral and global government relations, cooperation and communication between the people of China and the UK will also set the course for global recovery and a thriving global community and economy. Dame Barbara described touching examples of the peoples of both China and the UK expressing their goodwill towards one another, and their resolute desire for the pandemic to be brought to an end.
Looking to the future, Dame Barbara explained how the global community needs to focus its attention on preventing a crisis on this scale from happening again. To do so, it will be essential to get to the root of the causes of the current pandemic. Putting in place measures for global sustainable development health goals will also be of particular importance to preventing and containing future threats to global health. Whatever crises the world will face in the future, it is clear that the impact of these can be greatly lessened with a stronger network of global support, communication and collaboration: and that is the key lesson we should learn from COVID-19.