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U.S secretary critizes China's failure on cooperating in the early stages of the virus

April 12, 2021 | 16:06

In a NBC's interview on Sunday, U.S secretary Anthony J. Blinken criticised China of the country's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it failed to cooperate in the early stages of the virus led to the situation's getting "out of hand."

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"I think China knows that in the early stages of Covid, it didn't do what it needed to do, which was to, in real time, give access to international experts, in real time to share information, in real time to provide real transparency," he said.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at the State Department in Washington this month.Credit...Pool photo by Alexander Drago
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at the State Department in Washington this month.Credit...Pool photo by Alexander Drago

"One result of that failure," he said, is that the coronavirus "got out of hand faster and with, I think, much more egregious results than it might otherwise."

Blinken said the pandemic has underscored the need for a global approach, with a "stronger global health security system" to prevent future pandemics or mitigate them, NBC News reported.

"That means making a real commitment to transparency — to information-sharing, to access for experts. It means strengthening the World Health Organization and reforming it so it can do that. And China has to play a part in that," he said.

The initial Covid-19 cases have been linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, China, but scientists still don't fully understand the origins of the virus. The World Health Organization said in a report last month that the virus probably started in bats and that it is "extremely unlikely" that the virus came from a laboratory leak.

Blinken said that as the U.S. and other developed countries ramp up their Covid-19 vaccinations, the U.S. has a "significant responsibility" and will be a "world leader on helping make sure that the entire world gets vaccinated."

A file photo of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken  Photograph: Reuters
A file photo of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Photograph: Reuters

"Unless and until the vast majority of people in the world are vaccinated, it's still going to be a problem for us. Because as long as the virus is replicating somewhere, it could be mutating, and then it could be coming back to hit us," he said.

"We need to do that precisely so we fully understand what happened, to have the best shot possible preventing it from happening again," he said. "That's why we need to get to the bottom of this."

When the WHO report was issued in March, the United States, the European Union and other Western countries called for China to give "full access" to independent experts to all data about the original outbreak in late 2019.

Blinken's comments about China didn't end at the virus. He also warned it in regard to Taiwan, which has long been pressured by its Chinese neighbor. Asked about the U.S. posture on tensions there, Blinken said it would "be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force" and added that "we have a serious commitment to Taiwan being able to defend itself."

He addressed questions about boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics in China over human rights concerns, saying that the U.S. wasn't "there yet" and that the discussion wasn't a focus right now.

"This is a year or so before the Olympics. We're not focused on a boycott," he said. "What we are focused on is talking, consulting closely with our allies and partners, listening to them, listening to concerns."

U.S secretary Blinken calls for more thorough investigation of Covid origins in China

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Sunday criticized the Chinese government for a lack of transparency during the pandemic, particularly during “the early stages of Covid,” and he called for a more thorough investigation of the origins of the coronavirus, according to New York Times.

A report of a joint inquiry by the World Health Organization and China published last month did not conclusively establish how or when the virus began spreading, and did little to allay Western concerns that the Chinese Communist Party bent the investigation to its advantage. Mr. Blinken, echoing those concerns, called on Beijing to make “a real commitment to transparency, to information sharing, to access for experts.”

File photo: Medical staff at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, China
File photo: Medical staff at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, China (Business Standard)

The top US diplomat stated that one result of that failure is that the virus got out of hand faster and with."I think, much more egregious results than it might otherwise," he said.

"As we're dealing with COVID-19, we also have to put in place a stronger global health security system to make sure that this doesn't happen again or, if it does happen again, we're able to mitigate it, to get ahead of it. And that means making a real commitment to transparency, to information sharing, to access for experts. It means strengthening the World Health Organization and reforming it so it can do that. And China has to play a part in that," Blinken added.

When asked about whether Washington is going to guarantee to the world that we're going to get to the bottom of how this originated, the top diplomat agreed with the same and stated that "we need to get to the bottom of this", according to Business Standard.

"I think we have to, because we need to do that precisely so we fully understand what happened in order to have the best shot possible at preventing it from happening again. That's why we need to get to the bottom of this," he said.

Blinken's comments, however, illustrated the Biden administration's willingness to convey skepticism of the official narrative coming from Beijing, according to The New York Times.

Twenty-four scientists from Europe, the US, Australia and Japan issued an open letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, that analyzed steps to complete a more comprehensive investigation, as reported by The Hill.

The scientists requested a probe involving biosecurity and biosafety experts conducted either by WHO or another group of nations to study the origins of COVID-19, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, in 2019.

The WHO report determined that the possibility the virus came from a lab was "extremely unlikely," noting there was "no record" any lab had closely related viruses.

The United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia and Israel recently said in a statement that they "fully" supported the WHO's efforts to bring an end to the pandemic, including understanding how it "started and spread".

But they added it was "essential that we voice our shared concerns that the international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples".

US Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price last week said that what is evident from Washington's review of the report is that it lacks crucial data, it lacks information, and it lacks access. "It represents a picture that is partial and, in our view, incomplete. That's not just our view. Many other countries share that view," he said during a briefing.

China has been criticised widely across the world for its role in the spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected over 135 million people across the world. More than 2.934 million people have lost their lives to the virus, as per Johns Hopkins University.

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