UK says China questions over coronavirus outbreak

UK says China questions over coronavirus outbreak


Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump in Beijing, China.

Artyom Ivanov | TASS | Getty Images

The U.K. has added to international pressure on China to answer questions over information it gave the world about the coronavirus outbreak, but said that the priority now was to beat the pandemic.

Asked Monday if China needed to explain how quickly it made the world aware of the extent of the virus, the U.K.’s defense minister said: “I think it does.”

“But I think 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,” U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace told LBC Radio Monday.

“Only by being open and transparent will we learn about it (the virus) and China needs to be open and transparent about what it learnt, and its shortcomings, but also its successes,” Wallace said.

His comments come after a barrage of U.S. criticism against China regarding its handling of the coronavirus outbreak and accusations that it was not transparent when it came to making the world aware.

U.S. President Donald Trump has increasingly pointed the finger of blame at China, and he repeated that accusation on Sunday, saying he believed that a “mistake” in China was the cause of the pandemic, though he did not present any evidence for the claim.

Speaking during a Fox News virtual town hall, Trump said, “I think they made a horrible mistake and didn’t want to admit it.”

In addition, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that there was evidence the disease emerged from a Chinese lab.

That comes after the U.S.’ top spy agency said last Thursday that it had determined that the virus was not man-made, but was still investigating whether it was caused by “an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.” China has vehemently rejected claims that the virus escaped from a research center in Wuhan.

An Australian newspaper report at the weekend claimed that the U.S.-led Five Eyes intelligence alliance — which includes the U.S., British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand intelligence services — had said in a dossier that China had deliberately suppressed or destroyed evidence of the coronavirus outbreak in an “assault on international transparency” that cost tens of thousands of lives. CNBC has not seen the Five Eyes dossier and has not been able to independently verify the report.

Asked about the veracity of the report, the U.K.’s defense minister said he would not comment on a specific report. “Every day I get intelligence bulletins from our agencies around the world. I don’t comment on individual bulletins, what I have and haven’t seen. That would be wrong,” Wallace said.

China has repeatedly denied that it covered up any details about the coronavirus outbreak. It says the U.S. has blamed it in order to divert attention from its own response to the outbreak. 

In an interview with NBC Tuesday, Chinese Vice Premier Le Yucheng said: “China has been open, transparent and responsible in its Covid-19 response. We did not cover up anything, and did not delay any efforts. We have already publicized the timeline of how we have shared the information on Covid-19.”

The number of coronavirus infections continues to rise with the number of global cases now topping 3.5 million. The virus has caused over 247,000 deaths worldwide. While cases and fatalities continue to decline in Europe and the U.S., Latin America and Africa are seeing a growing number of cases, Reuters noted Monday. 


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