China on Tuesday expressed its gratitude over India extending its support to face the challenge of fighting the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) that has so far claimed nearly 1900 lives in the country.

Chinese envoy to India, Sun Weidong, said his country is touched by the kindness shown by India in helping China tackle the deadly virus outbreak.

The ambassador, in his address, also acknowledged Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s letter of condolence to President Xi Jinping, expressing his recognition of the tremendous effort made by Beijing to deal with the outbreak.

“China and India have been keeping close communication on the epidemic,” Weidong said.

“The Indian side assured the readiness to stand by China and provide the assistance that India can, to face this challenge,” he further said and added: “At these difficult times, I am deeply touched by the kindness of the Indian friends.”

The envoy said all these gestures of kindness reminded him of the time when Dr Kotnis saved many lives and made a great contribution to the Chinese people’s liberation cause.

Indian doctor Dwarkanath Kotnis, a revered figure in China, died while treating injured Chinese soldiers in conflict with Japan in the 1940s.

He said, he is also reminded of his experience during the SARS outbreak in 2003 when Sun Weidong received a delegation from India led by the then Foreign Minister George Fernandes, who visited Shanghai during the epidemic.

Speaking on the epidemic, that has put over 50 million people under lockdown in China, the envoy said the Coronavirus outbreak is generally now under control.

As of February 17, outside Hubei province, the number of confirmed cases have been declining for 14 consecutive days across China, he said.

The Chinese ambassador has termed this decline as a cumulative drop of over 50 per cent. “The epidemic in Hubei and Wuhan is being managed more effectively. There is a rapid increase in the cure rate from 1.3 per cent to 8.2 per cent. Over 12,000 people have recovered and are being discharged from hospitals,” he added.

On being asked if there is a possibility that the virus was released from the Wuhan Institute of Virology accidentally and not from the seafood market, he said: “We still don’t have enough knowledge. This virus originated from nature, not man-made. The virus is terrible but the rumour is more terrible.”

Last week, China appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s letter to President Xi Jinping offering solidarity and assistance to deal with the deadly coronavirus outbreak, saying it “fully demonstrated” New Delhi’s friendship with Beijing.

In a letter written to the Chinese President, PM Modi had expressed solidarity with Xi Jinping and the people of the Asian country over the outbreak of the rapidly-spreading COVID-19.

PM Modi offered India’s assistance to face the challenge. He also offered condolences at the unfortunate loss of lives.

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “We thank and appreciate India’s support for China’s fight against the NCP Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia, the official name for coronavirus”.

“India’s acts of goodwill fully demonstrate its friendship with China,” Geng said during an online media briefing while replying to a question on PM Modi’s letter to President Jinping.

Indian Ambassador to China, Vikram Misri, had earlier told media that New Delhi was in touch with Chinese officials to find out the immediate requirements to deal with the epidemic.