Coronavirus' severity was hidden by the Chinese: Pompeo
Pompeo said China has an 'obligation to be transparent' on COVID-19's origin
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As the coronavirus has surpassed 3.7 million cases worldwide, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is imploring the Chinese government to provide more information on how the pandemic originated. There is growing speculation from the Trump administration that the virus could have been created in a lab in Wuhan, a theory that the intelligence community has disputed.
"We still continue to implore the Chinese government to turn over the samples, to allow Westerners in to look at those labs," Pompeo told "Lou Dobbs Tonight" on Wednesday. "We still need information not only to work on this particular crisis but to do everything we can to take down the risk that something like this can happen again."
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Pompeo said the spread of the coronavirus could’ve been prevented if the Chinese government acted faster.
"We know that the Chinese knew about this at least by December and didn’t act fast enough and the World Health Organization at the behest of the Chinese failed to declare this a pandemic in a timely fashion," Pompeo said. "These are the kind of things that caused this problem."
Pompeo believes the Chinese government has an obligation to be transparent with the rest of the world but has made every effort to hide to the coronavirus's severity, costing thousands of lives.
"We saw what they did to the journalists that they kicked out, American journalists they kicked out, and we saw what they did to some of the doctors who, early on, raising the flag and said, 'hey, we've got a problem,' " Pompeo said. "We've seen this kind of behavior, this kind of activity...they hide, they dissemble. They then propagate disinformation, propaganda that we saw when they tried to pin it on the United States."
While China claims it wants to be transparent, Pompeo said the nation's actions suggest the exact opposite.
"To be a reliable partner, you have to be transparent and they have done exactly the opposite here," Pompeo said. "They’ve done what authoritarian regimes do and that’s not only cost loss of life so far but continues to be a danger and threat to the American people."
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The WHO’s top emergencies expert, Dr. Mike Ryan, disputed Pompeo’s claims in an online press conference earlier this week saying, "We have not received any data-specific evidence from the U.S. government relating to the purported origin of the virus. So from our perspective, this remains speculative.”
Ryan added that "if that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared.”
China's foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian said there is "no scientific basis" to back up Pompeo's claim that the virus originated in its labs in Wuhan, according to the Associated Press.
"We always believe that this is a scientific issue and requires the professional assessment of scientists and medical experts," Lijian said during a briefing on April 16.
China also has strongly denied allegations that it delayed announcing the virus outbreak in Wuhan and that it has underreported case numbers.
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As for the World Health Organization, Pompeo said it is unacceptable to continue to "put hundreds of millions of American dollars to the World Health Organization if it’s not going to deliver."
As a result, the Trump administration is working to create its own agency to deal with international health operations to prevent what it sees as the W.H.O. failing the world.
"We know how to run international health operations and we’re determined to find a good way so that we can be, as we have always been, the leader in global health policy that’s saved lives all across the world," Pompeo said. "The W.H.O. simply didn't accomplish what its intended mission was, and as the president says about organizations that are multilateral in nature, if they work, fine. If they don't, we're simply not going to be part of it."
President Trump announced last month that the United States will halt funding for the WHO, accusing the organization of being "China-centric."
According to the latest update by Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 1.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States and more than 73,000 deaths.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.