Donald Trump has attacked China once again over the coronavirus pandemic – questioning whether it was a “mistake that got out of control” or a crisis that was started deliberately.
At the daily White House briefing, the US president warned that Beijing would face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the spread of COVID-19, but he stopped short of saying what type of actions he might take.
“It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t, and the whole world is suffering from it,” Mr Trump told reporters on Saturday.
The president has ramped up his rhetoric in recent days, and he has repeatedly referred to coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” in the past.
Mr Trump and his senior aides have also accused China of lacking transparency. These allegations resurfaced after the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began, revised its total number of fatalities upwards – increasing them by 50%.
Dr Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus taskforce, also questioned China’s data on Saturday, with charts indicating that the country’s death rate per 100,000 people is substantially below major European countries and the US.
Describing China’s figures as “unrealistic”, she warned the country has a “moral obligation” to provide credible information to the rest of the world.
This week, the Trump administration also suspended aid to the World Health Organisation – accusing the UN health agency of being “China-centric”.
Critics claim Mr Trump is attempting to use Beijing to deflect from shortcomings in his own response to the pandemic.
The US has by far the world’s highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 730,000 infections and over 38,000 deaths.
There are concerns in the White House of a potential backlash if tensions between Washington and Beijing get too heated, as the US is heavily reliant on China for personal protective equipment.
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