Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong on Tuesday thanked India for helping his country deal the novel coronavirus outbreak, reported Hindustan Times. The toll in China rose to 1,868 on Tuesday morning as 98 more people died on the Chinese mainland. The virus is officially known as COVID-19.

“At this difficult times, I am deeply touched by the kindness of the Indian friends,” the envoy said at a press conference in New Delhi. “All these reminded me of the time when Dr Kotnis saved many lives and made great contribution to the Chinese people’s liberation cause.” Sun was referring to Indian doctor Dwarkanath Kotnis, who died in the 1940s while treating wounded Chinese soldiers during the country’s conflict with Japan. Kotnis is revered in China.

The Chinese ambassador said India had showed willingness to stand by Beijing by providing aid. He also recollected the time when an Indian delegation had visited China during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, outbreak in 2003. “At that time, I had the honour to receive a delegation from India led by the then foreign minister George Fernandes, who visited Shanghai during the epidemic,” he added.

In a series of tweets, Sun said New Delhi and Beijing were in close contact, and added that his country appreciated the “solidarity and support rendered by India”. He noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sent a letter of condolence to President Xi Jinping last week. China had thanked India for the letter.

“China and India are actively collaborating on epidemic prevention and control,” Sun tweeted. “We keep India informed and updated of the epidemic, provided necessary assistance and convenience for the return of Indian citizens in Hubei, and ensured the health and safety of Indian nationals in China.”

He claimed the epidemic was under control, and added the number of confirmed cases outside Hubei province had decreased for 14 days straight as of Monday. “This is a cumulative drop of over 50%,” ANI quoted him as saying. “The epidemic in Hubei and Wuhan is being managed more effectively. There is a rapid increase in cure rate from 1.3 % to 8.2%. Over 12,000 people have recovered and are being discharged from hospitals.”

China has also launched a crackdown on those criticising the way it has handled the crisis. An anti-corruption activist and civil rights lawyer, identified as Xu Zhiyong, was arrested on Saturday for criticising Xi’s handling of the epidemic.

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