The Trump administration pointed to Chinese officials as being responsible for delaying information about the early days of the coronavirus outbreak and spreading misinformation about the virus as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide rose to more than 265,000 Friday.
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“There’s been some discussion about China and what they knew and when they knew it. We need to know immediately,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Friday. “The world is entitled to know.”
Pompeo added that there was a “delay in information” from the Chinese Communist Party and said that China, along with Russia and Iran, had spread misinformation about the virus.
“Every moment of delay creates risks to people around the world,” he said. “It’s not about blaming someone. It’s about moving forward to have information we need to do our jobs.”
Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, said U.S. officials didn’t learn about the outbreak until Jan. 3 as a result of conversations Dr. Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had with Chinese colleagues.
Even after learning of the coronavirus, the CDC failed to develop usable test kits, The Wall Street Journal reported. But officials noted the U.S. began screening travelers flying from China as early as January.
The outbreak has been traced back as early as Dec. 10, according to the Journal. The Chinese government has been criticized for threatening Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor who had warned people about the virus in December and who later died from the virus in February.
Chinese officials put Wuhan on a quarantine lockdown on Jan. 24. By then, the number of confirmed cases was already growing by hundreds each day and 17 people had already died from the virus, according to the World Health Organization.
By the time WHO declared the virus a global emergency on Jan. 30, China had reported more than 7,800 cases and 170 deaths.
“It’s unfortunate this got out of control,” President Trump said Friday.
Researchers at the University of Southampton in England have also pinned the virus’s spread on China’s slow response. They found that the number of cases could have been reduced by 95 percent if Chinese officials had responded three weeks earlier. Even if they’d acted just one week earlier, there could have been 66 percent fewer cases, according to the researchers.
The virus was still spreading rapidly around the world Friday. There were more than 16,000 confirmed cases and 210 deaths in the U.S.
FOX Business' Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.