US accuses China of covering up severity of Covid-19 outbreak
America's Department of Homeland Security accused China of downplaying the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak in the Asian giant even as it ramped up imports of medical supplies and tried to mask its purchases.
In a four page intelligence report released on Sunday, the federal agency concluded that Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world and accused it of “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data."
China notified the World Health Organisation of its first case of Covid-19 on 8 December, but according to the South China Morning Post, unpublished Chinese government documents showed the first case was detected on 17 November.
By 23 January, when Beijing imposed a strict lockdown on Hubei province and its nearly 60m inhabitants, it had only notified the World Health Organisation of 571 infections of the new virus, but by 24 February the tally, at least according to official data, had reached 77,262.
Indeed, even while China was purchasing medical supplies overseas at a heightened pace, as late as 24 February, and on the basis of what information Beijing had provided it with as of that date, the WHO was continuing to say that so-called asymptomatic cases were "rare".
Speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” programme, US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, said he had no reason to believe that the virus was deliberately spread.
Pompeo added, “remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories.
“These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab,” Pompeo said. “And so, while the intelligence community continues to do its work, they should continue to do that, and verify so that we are certain, I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”
The British government also raised questions that it believes China should answer on the information shared about the disease.
In remarks on LBC, Britain’s defence minister Ben Wallace said on Monday that China should answer questions over how quickly it warned the world of the extent of the crisis.
“The time for the post mortem on this is after we’ve all got it under control and have come through it and our economies are back to normal,” Wallace said.
“China needs to be open and transparent about what it learnt, it’s shortcomings but also it’s successes.”
Also on Sunday, US President Donald Trump said Washington would publish a "very conclusive" report on the matter on Monday.
"We’re going to be giving a very strong report as to exactly what we think happened. And I think it will be very conclusive.
"My opinion is they made a mistake. They tried to cover it. They tried to put it out, just like a fire.”