Chinese minister 'sorry for the loss of life' amid the coronavirus outbreak

A minister of the Chinese Embassy in the UK has defended the country's reaction to the outbreak of coronavirus and said he is "sorry for the loss of life."

Minister Ma Hui told ITV News that China has taken "very strict, all out comprehensive measures" to control the spread of coronavirus, which began in Wuhan at the end of last year.

He defended the country's efforts to control the disease, but said with the benefit of hindsight "there are always things that you can do better."

"Because this a new virus, people are not fully prepared, people knew how contagious it was, but people didn't know how many people might get infected so there are always lessons to be learnt from epidemics like this," Mr Ma said.

He added that the World Health Organisation (WHO) said if it had not been for the efforts of the Chinese government, there would be many more cases and lives lost.

The minister of the Chinese Embassy said Prime Minster Boris Johnson had called Chinese president, Xi Jinping, to express support to China for helping to contain the virus.

So far, China has reported 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths, while South Korea has the second highest number of cases with 977 and eight deaths.

The disease has spread worldwide and Italy has seen Europe’s first major outbreak of coronavirus, with at least 11 deaths.

South Korea has the second highest number of coronavirus cases. Credit: AP

While in the UK, several schools have closed their doors to prevent the spread of the disease and students and staff returning from ski trips in Italy have been told to self-quarantine.

British holidaymakers have been placed under lockdown in a Tenerife hotel, after an Italian doctor was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Mr Ma said he was "sorry for the loss of life" in China and worldwide.

"Every life lost is a very sad story and obviously I'm very sorry some of my own country's people lost their lives, but outside of China this is a global epidemic. We need to work together to overcome this and the Chinese government has been working very hard to save lives," he said.

The virus has spread to countries around the world, including the Middle East. Credit: AP

"We put the safety and the lives of the Chinese people as our top priority, but you also understand why we are doing this, not only for the Chinese people but also for the world people.

"Our extraordinary efforts of locking down a whole city, 15 million people in Wuhan, actually...that's very brave, phenomenal measure to prevent the spread of the virus, not only from Wuhan to other parts of China, but also outside of China."

He said that China has seen positive signs the country is controlling the virus outbreak but he would not yet "call it a victory."

Mr Ma said: "Our efforts will continue to fight against the virus and making sure we give top priority to the safety and lives of our people.

"We are doing this for the Chinese people but also for the world, because our serious efforts have brought us time for the world to prepare for any epidemic."