'It cost the world': National Security Adviser blames spread of coronavirus on China 'cover-up'

Robert O'Brien claims reaction to Wuhan outbreak cost 'two months' of response time

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 11 March 2020 13:59 GMT
Trump administration claims China 'covered up' coronavirus

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien claims that China "covered up" the initial outbreak of a coronavirus from Wuhan which slowed global response.

Bolstering Donald Trump's "America First" policy at an event hosted by conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, Mr O'Brien claimed that "lots of open-source reporting from China, from Chinese nationals, that the doctors involved were either silenced or put in isolation or that sort of thing, so that the word of this virus could not get out."

His comments follow similar remarks from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said that China's efforts have put the US "behind the curve" in its response.

Mr O'Brien said "it probably cost the world community two months to respond" in the wake of China's response, giving the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a shorter window of reaction time to respond, he claims.

He said that the US "could have dramatically curtailed what happened" as the outbreak reached thousands of people in more than 100 countries. More than 1,000 infections have been reported in the US, where at least 32 people have died.

Mr Trump's fourth national security chief said: "I think we've done a good job responding to it."

His comments follow criticisms lobbed against the Trump administration for allegedly dragging its feet and underplaying the threat to the US, with a slow roll-out of test kits to public health outlets and reports of botched quarantine efforts across the country as the president insists it will "go away" amid unprecedented global market panic.

Following historic stock market drops and the likelihood of the WHO's declaration of a pandemic, Mr Trump insisted this week that the virus "will go away" if Americans "stay calm".

Asked whether he would consider being tested for infection, the president said: "I don't think it's a big deal. I would do it. I don't feel any reason. I feel very good, but I guess — it's not a big deal to get tested — so it's something I would do."

While WHO officials have praised China's efforts to mobilise against the virus, the government has also censored criticism, and reports have surfaced of authorities suppressing early warnings from doctors.

Mr Trump has signed an $8.3bn emergency relief package passed by Congress, but the president also is considering bailouts for oil and hotel industries impacted by the outbreak.

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