April 17 2020
United States president Donald Trump appeared to have won support in his criticisms of China’s Covid-19 handling during yesterday’s videoconference with leaders of the Group of Seven industrialised democracies.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said there could be no “business as usual” with China.
“We’ll have to ask the hard questions about how it came about and how it couldn’t have been stopped earlier,” said Raab.
Raab was representing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is recovering from Covid-19 infection.
French President Emmanuel Macron warned after the videoconference against being “naive” in believing that China has handled the outbreak well.
“There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about,” he said in an interview.
The Washington Post and Fox News had reported suspicions that the virus had slipped out of a laboratory in Wuhan, where the pandemic was first detected and not originated from a market there as suggested by the Chinese authorities.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said China should have been more transparent about the laboratory.
“We’re doing a full investigation of everything we can to learn how it is the case that this virus got away, got out into the world and now has created so much tragedy — so much death,” said Pompeo in an interview.
Meanwhile, Chinese president Xi Jinping described efforts to blame Beijing for the Covid-19 pandemic as counterproductive and detrimental to international cooperation.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who previously outraged the US by spreading an unfounded theory that US troops introduced the coronavirus in Wuhan quoted the World Health Organisation (WHO) as saying there was no evidence the virus came from a lab.
“Many well-known medical experts in the world also believe that the so-called laboratory leak hypothesis has no scientific basis,” Zhao said.
US has stopped its funding of WHO, which is the largest among countries at about half a billion dollars each year, after Trump accused the UN body of mismanaging the handling of Covid-19 for being too pliant to China.
Trump yesterday also laid out guidelines for a gradual reopening of the country, saying normal life should resume quickly in some states.
“Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agrees that we can begin the next front in our war. We’re opening up our country,” he said.
The US accounts for the most Covid-19 deaths with almost 33,000 of the nearly 144,000 fatalities worldwide being recorded in that country.
Trump, however, pointed to sparsely populated parts of the country and said some states were already free from the pandemic.
“We have large sections of the country, right now, that can think about opening,” he said.
He outlined three “phases” under which each governor would determine the permitted size of gatherings depending on their location and levels of infection.
Across the Atlantic, Britain, which shut down later than most of continental Europe, said it would extend its lockdown for at least another three weeks as its daily death toll spiked to 861.
Hard-hit Spain and Italy have, however begun to ease restrictions.
Switzerland announced that some shops and services, including beauty salons will be allowed to resume business from April 27.
Germany also announced steps to reopen some shops and gradually restart schools.
Denmark began reopening schools for younger children and Finland lifted a blockade of Helsinki.
Russia, nonetheless, postponed its May 9 celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II.