Trump official claims China ‘deliberately’ sent coronavirus to US as cases soar across country

Alex Woodward
·6-min read
EPA
EPA

Donald Trump’s top trade adviser has suggested China deliberately allowed hundreds of thousands of people infected with coronavirus to leave the country “to seed and spread the virus” abroad.

Peter Navarro’s remarks follow the White House’s accelerated rhetoric against China, where the virus is believed to have originated, as the crisis in the US grows nearly four months after a pandemic was declared.

As the US approached its Fourth of July holiday weekend, more than a dozen states saw record numbers of new cases.

Five more states broke single-day records for newly identified cases on Friday, a day after eight other states saw record high numbers.

On Thursday, the US set yet another single-day record for new cases, with more than 55,000 cases identified, for the sixth time within two weeks.

More than 2.8 million people in the US have been infected with Covid-19 and more than 129,000 people have died since the onset of the outbreak.

While firework displays, parades and other events across the US are cancelled, the president – leading a nation that has mostly rolled back on an easing of the lockdown – headed to South Dakota for a Fourth of July event at Mount Rushmore. Officials said that physical distancing and face coverings would not be enforced.

The president has repeatedly falsely claimed that cases in the US are rising because more tests are being performed. However, scientists says the rate of test positivity is increasing, suggesting the virus is spreading.

Mr Navarro claimed on MSNBC that the “Chinese communist party” is responsible for forcing Americans to “stay locked in our homes and lose our jobs” despite demands for increased testing and tracing and federal aid to help out-of-work Americans stay home while the virus is brought under control. However, a state-by-state patchwork response of brief lockdowns across the US – which several states did not mandate – has not been enough to reduce infections.

He said that “everybody” had believed “that come summer, the heat and humidity would get rid of the virus” though health officials have warned for months that would not be the case. “It doesn’t look that way. This looks like a weaponised virus.”

Asked whether he believed that China had deliberately and knowingly sent people to infect other countries, he criticised China for restricting domestic travel “while they freely sent hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals on aircraft around the world”.

“Let me be really clear about this. I don’t think it really matters... What they deliberately did – and this is beyond reproach in terms of the facts – they deliberately allowed Chinese nationals to come into the US, Italy and everywhere in between, who were infected, while they were locking down their own transportation network,” he added.

Critics have argued that the administration’s frequent attacks on China are a ploy to distract from its own failures to combat the virus.

Mr Navarro’s remarks follows the president’s Twitter message on 30 June: “As I watch the Pandemic spread its ugly face all across the world, including the tremendous damage it has done to the USA, I become more and more angry at China. People can see it, and I can feel it!”

The president had praised China’s transparency and his relationship with President Xi Jinping over several weeks leading up to a US outbreak but reversed course as his administration faced criticism for its failure to mobilise a response.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month, he suggested that China had “intentionally” spread the virus, following a conspiracy theory among White House officials that Covid-19 was generated in a lab.

“They’re saying, ‘Man, we’re in a mess,’” he said. “’The United States is killing us.’ Don’t forget, my economy during the last year and a half was blowing them away ... I don’t think they would do that ... but you never know.”

This week, the president heralded “great news” that the nation’s death rate from coronavirus “is down” despite the surge in new cases. In the spring, health officials reported as many as 3,000 deaths a day, with the virus proving fatal to nearly 8 per cent of infected patients.

In recent weeks, Covid-19 deaths have dropped to roughly 5 per cent. But health officials have warned that the US has probably undercounted the nation’s death toll.

A recently released report from researchers at Yale University compared the number of excess deaths from previous years to non-coronavirus deaths in 2020, finding that the “official” death toll could present a “substantial undercount” of the actual deaths from the disease.

In May, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert who is heading the federal coronavirus response, told NBC that it’s unlikely that Covid-19 deaths are being over-reported and that “there’s more of a chance of missing some that are really coronavirus deaths that are not being counted” but not enough to significantly alter trends.

Dr Fauci told a Senate committee this week that Americans “need to emphasise the responsibility that we have both as individuals and as part of a societal effort to end the epidemic”.

“We’ve got to get that message out, that we are all in this together,” he said. “Anything that favours the use of masks – whether it’s giving out free masks or any other mechanism – I am thoroughly in favour of.”

The president also appeared to reverse his public posturing on masks after dismissing federal guidance in April and stoking a cultural and political war among his supporters and Democrats over wearing them.

“I don’t know a if you need mandatory,” the president told Fox Business Network on Wednesday. “I’m all for masks. I think masks are good.”

Several Republican governors who initially resisted quarantine efforts in their state have since rolled back reopenings or mandated face coverings in public, effective this week.

After his state saw a record daily number of new cases on Wednesday, hitting more than 8,000, Texas Governor Greg Abbot has ordered residents to wear masks in public.

Arizona’s governor Doug Ducey is also requiring residents to wear masks in public after the state saw a single-day spike of 4,000 new cases.

Florida saw 10,000 cases in one day on Thursday, the only state other than New York to see a single-day spike to ever breach 10,000.

But governor Ron DeSantis has not mandated further closures after he shut down bars and beaches a second time. State lawmakers have pressed the governor to put a statewide mask order in place.

Nearly 9,500 new cases were reported in the third most-populous state on Friday, marking the third-largest spike recorded in a single day, as statewide totals since the beginning of the outbreak near 180,000.

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