‘We are not the culprit’: Beijing tells US to stop blaming China for coronavirus pandemic

‘We are not the culprit’: Beijing tells US to stop blaming China for coronavirus pandemic

China on Monday called on the United States to stop blaming it for the coronavirus pandemic, saying it was “also a victim”, as international pressure mounts on Beijing over its handling of the crisis.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the global community should work together instead of casting blame or demanding compensation.

“The international community can overcome the virus only if it can stay united and co-operate to make concerted efforts,” Geng told reporters in Beijing. “Attacking and discrediting other countries simply wastes time and cannot save lost lives.”

He added that people in the US should understand that their enemy is the virus, not China.

“China has been attacked by the virus and is also a victim of the virus. We are not the culprit, nor the accomplice of the virus,” he said.

Geng’s remarks come amid calls to investigate Beijing’s handling of the outbreak in Wuhan, central China, where the first cases of the new virus strain – which has killed more than 165,000 people and infected over 2.4 million worldwide – were reported in December.

US President Donald Trump told a coronavirus task force briefing on Sunday that the US was talking to China about sending a team of experts to the country to investigate.

A day earlier, he warned that China could face consequences if it was found to be “knowingly responsible” for the Covid-19 outbreak, with Vice-President Mike Pence saying the US would “make proper inquiries into this at the proper time”.

In the US, more than 41,000 people have died from Covid-19 and over 759,000 have tested positive, making it by far the worst-hit country in the world.

Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Sunday questioned China’s transparency and demanded an international inquiry into the origin and handling of the pandemic.

“Australia will absolutely insist on that,” Payne told ABC television’s Insiders programme.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday said China needed to answer hard questions on how the coronavirus outbreak happened and how it could have been stopped earlier.

Geng said he hoped people in the US would respect the facts and science, and stop making “unwarranted attacks and accusations” against China, referring to speculation about the emergence of the new coronavirus.

“The origin of the virus is a serious scientific issue and should be handled by scientists and medical experts and it should not be politicised,” Geng said.

Referring to reports of a class-action lawsuit in the US state of Florida seeking damages from the Chinese government over Covid-19, Geng added that the US did not compensate anyone after the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, which was first detected in the United States.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated the influenza strain led to as many as 575,400 deaths globally during the first year it circulated.

China and the US have engaged in a pandemic blame game, with Trump initially describing it as the “Chinese virus” and a Beijing official suggesting the US military may have brought the coronavirus to Wuhan.

That official, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, on Thursday said there was no scientific evidence to suggest the coronavirus was made in or leaked from a laboratory.

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